House GOP Defiant Toward Bipartisan Senate Deal To Avoid DHS Shutdown

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WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders are refusing to support legislation that funds the Department of Homeland Security without imposing immigration policy restrictions, a sign that the department is headed for a partial shutdown Friday night.

The legislation is all but guaranteed to pass the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have championed it in an agreement to bring up immigration bills separately. Even conservative firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has signaled he won’t hold up the “clean” DHS bill ahead of the Friday midnight deadline to avert a shutdown.

But in the House, it’s a very different story. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), facing a rebellion from his members, isn’t ready to swallow the standalone DHS bill just yet, and is exploring options to continue fighting President Barack Obama’s initiatives on immigration.

“We want to stop the president’s immigration actions with regard to immigration,” Boehner told reporters Thursday. “It’s outrageous that Senate Democrats are using Homeland Security funding for blackmail to protect the actions of the president. … We’re waiting to see what the Senate can or can’t do, and then we’re going to make decisions about how to proceed.”

He declined to say what he’d do once the Senate passes a clean DHS bill, even blowing air kisses to Washington correspondent and radio host Todd Zwillich of The Takeaway as he pressed him.

There’s a strong appetite among Republicans in the House to amend the bill and send it back to the Senate with some immigration restrictions, senior aides say, even if it’s not the sweeping slate of limitations that the House passed in its January DHS bill, which would effectively call for deporting everyone in the U.S. illegally.

“We’ll probably ping something back, then it’ll be up to Harry Reid if he wants to filibuster that again,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) said. “But I think most Americans — even if there was a partial slowdown of DHS, they’ll wake up the next morning and not notice a difference at all in their lives.”

Republican congressmen are apoplectic about the president’s immigration initiatives, which combines two of their greatest resentments: Obama making robust use of his executive authority, and leniency for undocumented immigrants.

“It has to have some mechanism to make sure that the president can’t go ahead with his executive order. And if not, I can’t support that,” Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) told TPM. “Even if it was a clean bill and we bring up blocking his executive order [separately], if he doesn’t sign it — there’s no impetus to sign it.”

Yoho cast doubt on proposed legislation by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) to block Obama’s 2014 actions to protect undocumented parents of U.S. citizens, while allowing his 2012 program to shield people brought to the country as children. He fretted that Obama could simply expand “DACA” to include millions more.

GOP lawmakers also kept open the possibility of a short-term bill to keep funds flowing to DHS while the immigration fight continues to play out.

The more senior Republicans are keeping their powder dry.

“We’re looking at a lot of different options,” House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) told TPM.

Still, there is a fatalism even among some Republicans that the end-game is a “clean” DHS bill, due to Senate Democrats’ implacable filibusters and Obama’s veto threats, which he reiterated Wednesday at a town hall hosted by MSNBC.

McConnell has turned into a loathed figure among House conservatives for cutting a deal with Reid to fund DHS. Immigration restrictionist Rep. Steve King (R-IA) said the Senate Republican leader “tipped over his king” — a chess reference meaning he conceded defeat.

Reid made clear on Thursday that Senate Democrats would block any proposal from the House that includes immigration restrictions.

“It is a waste of time. We will not allow a conference to take place. It won’t happen,” he told reporters. “If they send over a bill with all the riders in it, they’ve shut down the government.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) claimed that immigration was simply an “excuse” for Republicans to grind government to a halt.

“Understand: shutting down government is their motive,” she told reporters.

Boehner insisted that contrary to some suggestions by House conservatives, his speakership wasn’t at risk in the immigration battle.

“No, heaven sakes, no!” he said. “Not at all.”

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