Democrats united on Tuesday afternoon to block the Senate from debating Republican-led legislation that would fund the Department of Homeland Security, escalating a fight that could end in a partial government shutdown at the end of the month.
Democrats complained that the legislation, already passed by the House, includes provisions to overturn President Barack Obama’s executive actions to shield low-priority undocumented immigrants from the threat of deportation.
The vote was 51-48, falling short of the 60 needed to defeat a filibuster.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters flatly that Democrats would not accept anything other than a “clean” DHS funding bill. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) accused the GOP of following Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) “mindlessly” into another partial government shutdown like in 2013.
Asked by TPM if he would bring up a clean DHS bill under any circumstances, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he was “perplexed” by Reid’s position and called on Democrats to debate the bill and offer amendments if they want to change it.
“I think it’s a rather, honestly, absurd position to say that we object to the bill but we don’t want to debate the bill or change the bill,” he said.
Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) voted with Democrats to block the bill. McConnell switched his vote to “no” in a procedural move to allow him to bring up the legislation again.
A Senate Republican leadership aide said to expect another cloture vote on the same bill.
Republicans have no strategy for a fallback plan, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said before the vote, insisting that a DHS shutdown should never be allowed.
“I promise you, I’ve been in at least 20 discussions in the last 72 hours or week, and nobody really has a strategy yet. I’m sorry to say,” he told reporters. “I’ve heard about 300 options — none of them so far viable.”
House Republican leaders recognize that their bill isn’t going anywhere — Obama has signaled he’ll veto it even if it does pass. In an unusual move, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) called out Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), the senators most strongly pushing to overturn Obama’s deportation moves, to fight and pass the bill.
“It’s time for Senator Cruz and Senator Sessions, and Senate Republicans
and Senate Democrats to stand together with the American people and
block the president’s actions,” Boehner said Tuesday morning before the vote.