WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats are changing their strategy on immigration in an attempt to put House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) in a jam over a partial government shutdown on Friday at midnight.
On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said Democrats would filibuster a “clean” funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security until Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) committed to bringing it up in the House. Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) offered the plan as a way to break the logjam.
But on Wednesday, after Boehner refused to budge, Reid reversed course and endorsed a clean DHS bill. The aim is to put the heat on Boehner, who is facing immense pressure from the right to hold firm against President Barack Obama’s immigration actions, and take away his ability to dodge the issue by saying it’s the Senate’s turn to act before the House decides what to do next.
“Senator McConnell has agreed to give us a vote on [clean DHS funding]. We’re glad to see that that’s happened, and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure it passes by an overwhelming vote,” Reid told reporters after meeting with Senate Democrats. “I think virtually every Democrat will vote for that.”
If McConnell achieves unanimous consent to move a clean DHS bill — a big if, given that Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) fiercely oppose the idea — the measure could pass quickly. If opponents drag out the process, it may not be completed until Saturday, after DHS funding expires, a Senate Republican leadership aide said.
“All eyes now shift to the House of Representatives, as soon as we pass our clean funding bill,” Reid said.
Reid said he has received assurances from McConnell that the DHS bill won’t be amended to add any poison pills, as some Democrats feared. “Senator McConnell wouldn’t do that,” he said. “We’re beyond that. No, this isn’t the time for games.”
McConnell on Tuesday offered to split the DHS funding measure from contentious legislation to block President Barack Obama’s immigration initiatives, in an attempt to avert a shutdown. In return Democrats agreed to allow debate on a bill by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) that overturns Obama’s 2014 moves on immigration.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) emphasized that Democrats strongly oppose the Collins bill on the merits, but that they’re happy to debate the issue of immigration.
“We’ve received assurance from McConnell that he will move this bill in a clean fashion and send it to the House, and we believe we can control our fate when it comes to [the] Collins [bill] if the House acts in bad faith,” he said. “So we can protect ourselves.”