WASHINGTON — Despite a glimmer of hope on Tuesday, Congress fell right back into a stalemate with just two days to go before the Department of Homeland Security runs out of funding.
The chances of a partial government shutdown on Friday at midnight grew as the Republican-led House and Senate remained divided on the way forward.
Emerging from an hourlong meeting on Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) refused to offer any support for a proposal by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to break the logjam by holding separate votes on DHS funding and overturning President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
“I’m waiting for the Senate to act,” he told reporters. “The House has done its job to fund the Department of Homeland Security and to stop the president’s overreach on immigration. And we’re waiting for the Senate to do their job.”
Boehner ducked five questions about the McConnell plan, saying the House won’t decide what to do until the Senate acts. (He also refused to answer questions about whether embracing McConnell’s plan would endanger his tenuous hold on the speakership, as some House conservatives have suggested to reporters.)
That’s a problem because Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said Tuesday that Democrats will filibuster even a clean DHS bill until Boehner promises to bring it up.
That demand has incensed House Republicans.
“Senator Reid can’t get used to not being in charge over there,” a visibly disappointed Rep. John Carter (R-TX) told reporters. “McConnell will fight his own fight.”
Carter insisted that the House had done its job.
“What’ve we got to act on? We passed our bill,” he said.
The GOP’s position has been complicated by Obama’s threats to veto a bill that reverses his immigration actions. The issue is white hot for Republicans as it combines two of the far right’s biggest piques: Obama’s “lawlessness” and illegal immigration. The battle date back to December when Republicans funded most of the government for the full fiscal year but funded DHS only through February, promising to use the issue to fight Obama’s immigration moves.
“I just want a plan that, at the end of the day, preserves the Constitution,” Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA), who defeated former Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) last year, told reporters. “So however we get there, that’s what I want.”