Members of Congress are inching dangerously close to the deadline for when funding for the Department of Homeland Security is slated to run dry, setting up a showdown over President Obama’s executive actions on immigration just days before enrollment for the measures begins.
Lawmakers have until Feb. 27 to come up with a funding plan and avert shutting down the critical government agency. But with few days left on the legislative calendar for lawmakers to act, the impasse in Congress is raising concerns they will blow past the deadline.
Top House Democrats gathered on the steps of Capitol Hill Friday morning to press congressional Republicans to drop their efforts to undermine the president’s executive actions by tying toxic amendments to the DHS spending bill.
“Four days left: The clock is ticking,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said.
Congressional Republicans, angered with the president’s unilateral actions, have tried repeatedly to block the measures. Though the Republican-led House passed a bill last month to fund the DHS on the condition of gutting Obama’s immigration actions, those efforts were stalled in the Senate thanks to a Democratic filibuster. With the DHS deadline looming, Democrats are continuing to call for a clean bill that funds the agency throughout the year, and not a temporary stop-gap that would only set up another confrontation down the road.
“We call on our Republicans colleagues to join Democrats and live up to our responsibility as members of Congress and put the safety of the American people first by immediately passing a clean bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security for 2015,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, a California Democrat, said at the press conference Friday.
House Speaker John Boehner meanwhile left the door open for a potential shutdown. Speaking at a news conference Thursday, Boehner said even a partial shutdown “would be bad,” but that the blame would be on Senate Democrats.
“The House has done its job. We’ve spoken. And now it’s up to the Senate to do their job,” the Ohio Republican said. “If funding for Homeland Security lapses, Washington Democrats are gonna bear the responsibility.” ‘
The first phase of Obama’s executive actions are scheduled to kick in next week, opening up the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to thousands of young undocumented immigrants who would be eligible for deportation relief and temporary work permits. The next, and more expansive version of the program, is expected later this spring, opening up benefits to undocumented adults with U.S.-born children. In sum, as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. would be affected.
Congressional Republicans have vowed to fight the actions “tooth and nail.” On Friday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte sent a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson raising concerns that the DACA expansion would provide a pathway to citizenship to thousands of undocumented immigrants and asking that immigration officials halt the application process.
“Your Department’s recent changes to this deferred action program seem to be a sneaky attempt to place potentially hundreds of thousands of unlawful immigrants on a path to citizenship,” Goodlatte wrote.