Shutdown Wars Flare Up Over Immigration After Triple Filibuster Of DHS Funding Bill

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WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats united Thursday to filibuster government funding legislation for the third time in three consecutive days, rebelling over Republican provisions that would end protections for young people in the U.S. illegally and block President Barack Obama’s recent executive actions on immigration.

The 52-47 vote, short of the 60 needed to advance the House-passed bill, escalates a growing confrontation and raises the prospects that the Department of Homeland Security will partially shut down at the end of February.

“Pass a clean homeland security bill,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). “We will not be held hostage. The American people don’t want a gun to their head particularly when it involves security.”

The rest of the federal government is funded through September but House Republicans kept DHS money on a short leash in order to wage a fight against Obama’s immigration actions. Conservatives are demanding that the GOP hold firm in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, including a likely White House veto even if the bill passes Congress.

One reason Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) keeps bringing up the same bill is that his members are split on the way forward and there is no consensus on a Plan B. GOP leaders are caught between the passions of their base and the brick wall of Democratic opposition that makes the bill unviable.

Before the vote, McConnell made another futile plea for “Democrats of good conscience” to drop their filibuster.

Some Republicans senators are growing impatient with this fight.

“My preference would have been to not have this fight here but to actually put [immigration reform] legislation on the president’s desk,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) told TPM. “Rather than stick a finger in the president’s eye, put legislation on his desk.”

He said there are divisions within the conference on what to do next.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) proposed a substitute bill Thursday that would sustain Obama’s 2012 program to protect young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children, but overturn his November 2014 actions to also protect undocumented parents of American citizens.

Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat, rejected it, describing it as hostage-taking but merely with a different ransom. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said Democrats won’t accept anything other than a clean DHS bill.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said Thursday he doesn’t know what McConnell’s end game is.

“He’s got a tough job over there,” Boehner told reporters. “God bless him and good luck.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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