WASHINGTON — In a huge embarrassment for Republican leaders, the House voted down their bill Friday to avert a Homeland Security shutdown hours before the midnight deadline.
The House GOP plan was to pass a three-week stopgap bill to delay the immigration fight against President Barack Obama’s executive actions until March 19.
But even that failed to pass, losing conservatives who considered it too much of a surrender to a lawless president as well as Democrats who demanded a yearlong DHS funding bill without any restrictions on Obama’s immigration policies.
The vote was 203-224. Fifty-two Republicans voted against it, while 12 Democrats voted for it.
“This was a conscience vote about trying to uphold the Constitution,” Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), one of the “no” votes, told TPM. “If you’re supposed to cave in because you don’t want 30,000 people to lose their paychecks — how do you make a stand if you don’t take a stand? … It’s the only option we have.”
The vote was held open for long after time technically expired, in the hope that members would switch their votes and pass it. Numerous lawmakers yelled for “regular order” on the House floor, calling for the vote to end. After it was called, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) advised members that further votes may happen on Friday or the weekend. Unless both chambers act to avert a shutdown, DHS funding will expire on Saturday at 12:01 a.m.
The House’s next move is unclear, GOP lawmakers said.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a lapse” in DHS funding, Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) told reporters.
After the bill was voted down, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called for Boehner to avoid a DHS shutdown by allowing a vote on the Senate-passed bill that fully funds the department.
“The Republican Congress has shown that it simply cannot govern. Two months into the Republican Congress, we are already staring a Homeland Security shutdown square in the face, even as terrorists around the world threaten to strike America,” Reid said in a statement. “Now is the time to drop the partisan political games and come together to avoid a Homeland Security shutdown for the good of our country.”
Many House Republicans weren’t ready to cave yet and pass a yearlong DHS funding bill, as the Republican-led Senate did on Friday morning. As it turned out, many weren’t even ready to pass a short-term funding bill.
“I’ve been making statements, as has the Speaker, since [December] that the president’s action was unconstitutional. So I’d have to be going back on that,” Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL) told reporters. “Right now I’m leaning to … standing my ground that what I’ve been saying for the last three months hasn’t been political bullshit. … The bottom line is you’ve got to be able to explain yourself to your constituents that you are not a total hypocrite.”
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) voted for the bill — a rare move given that the speaker typically doesn’t vote. His allies tried in vain to persuade members that the real battle was in court and that they should pass the DHS bill.
“This is actually a little bit of a side show. I think the decisive arena is actually the courts,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) told reporters. “We can’t achieve a complete victory in Congress. We don’t have the Senate. The president does have a veto.”
White House spokesman Josh Earnest earlier Friday excoriated Republicans for refusing to take up a full-year DHS appropriations bill that reflects existing priorities.
“It exposes the danger of playing politics with our homeland security,” Earnest told reporters, while saying Obama would have signed a short-term bill if the alternative was a shutdown. “It represents an abject failure on the part of the new Republican Congress not to get this done.”
This article has been updated.