Senate Democrats are threatening to filibuster Republican-led legislation to keep the Department of Homeland Security funded because it overturns President Barack Obama’s immigration actions, and a divided GOP hasn’t yet settled on a fallback plan to avoid a partial government shutdown at the end of February.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that the Senate will hold a procedural vote Tuesday to advance a House-passed bill to fund DHS and reverse Obama’s executive moves to shield millions of unlawful immigrants, including those brought to the U.S. as children, from the threat of deportation.
Democratic leaders believe they have the 41 votes needed to block the bill from proceeding to debate, a senior Senate Democratic aide said Monday.
“We’re not expecting to give the Republicans cloture on the House DHS bill,” the aide said. “For the Senate to take up a bill that has absolutely no chance of being signed into law because it’s littered with extreme, objectionable riders — that’s a waste of time.”
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) — on his first day back to the Capitol after a grave injury to his eye last month, with a bandage covering his right eye which may never regain vision — launched an attack on the GOP.
“We should pass a homeland security bill with no strings attached to it. That’s where we’re going to wind up,” he said Monday, adding that if Republicans have a problem with Obama on immigration, “Hit it head on. Don’t hide behind homeland security.”
Politico reported that some Republican senators indicated during a recent closed-door meeting that they wanted to bring up a “clean” DHS funding bill and get it over with. “I think the House guys rolled a grenade in the room,” one senator was quoted as saying.
Asked what Republicans would do if and when the legislation hits a wall, McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said, “Let’s see if Dems actually filibuster funding for the Department of Homeland Security first.”
With Republicans divided over tactics, and facing fierce pressure from the right to hold firm on immigration, at risk of a DHS shutdown and despite the political constraints, Democrats are relishing the debate, using it as an opportunity to accuse Republicans of wanting to deport more “DREAMers” — young people brought to the country illegally as children.
The conservative group Heritage Action issued a statement Monday pushing senators to pass the House’s “amnesty stopping” DHS bill and indicating that it would judge their votes in its legislative scorecard.
The cloture vote puts a spotlight on Republicans facing reelection in blue states in 2016, such as Sens. Mark Kirk (IL), Ron Johnson (WI), and Pat Toomey (PA).
For good measure, President Barack Obama warned Republicans on Monday not to “play politics” with national security, stressing that a DHS shutdown would force tens of thousands of essential personnel to work without being paid, including border patrol agents and airport screeners.