WASHINGTON — It was all but inevitable, and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) finally cut his losses on Tuesday, telling House Republicans he will allow a vote on legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security without any immigration restrictions.
The “clean” DHS funding bill could come up as early as Tuesday. It is expected to pass with overwhelming support from Democrats and enough House Republicans.
Boehner laid out three paths to his members in a weekly meeting, according to a source in the room: shutting down DHS, another short-term stopgap bill, or the Senate-passed clean DHS bill. He said the first two weren’t good options.
“With more active threats coming into the homeland, I don’t believe that’s an option,” Boehner said of a shutdown. “Imagine if, God forbid, another terrorist attack hits the United States.”
It effectively ends the Republican threat to use a potential shutdown of DHS to overturn President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration, which Boehner promised to fight “tooth and nail” last year with the new GOP majorities in both chambers.
Many House conservatives are furious over the immigration actions and intend to defect on the bill. They dealt Boehner a humiliating defeat last Friday by scuttling a three-week extension of the DHS deadline, only to end up with a one-week extension with help from Democrats.
Boehner’s move to embrace the “clean” DHS bill is a devastating blow to conservatives, who had hoped to use their new majorities to confront Obama by tying their priorities to essential government bills. They feared that caving in the DHS battle would set the tone in Congress for the next two years.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had cut his losses in the immigration fight last week after repeated Senate Democratic filibusters.
The Speaker reminded his members that a lawsuit against Obama has halted his immigration actions and is making its way through the courts.
“I am as outraged and frustrated as you at the lawless and unconstitutional actions of this president,” he said, according to the source in the room. “I believe this decision – considering where we are – is the right one for this team, and the right one for this country. The good news is that the president’s executive action has been stopped, for now. This matter will continue to be litigated in the courts, where we have our best chance of winning this fight.”