With less than a week before the Department of Homeland Security runs out of funding – and a potential, partial shutdown on the horizon—DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson appeared on five Sunday news shows to urge Congress to act, arguing national security will be at risk if lawmakers fail to hammer out a deal.
“It’s absurd that we’re even having this conversation about Congress’ inability to fund Homeland Security in these challenging times,” Johnson said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding he hopes someone in Congress “will exercise some leadership.”
At the center of the heated spending battle is immigration. Republicans want to include language to roll back the president’s recent executive actions on the issue, which shields as many as five million undocumented immigrants from deportation. The House has passed such a bill, but Senate Democrats are blocking a vote and have called on a “clean” bill—meaning one that has no extraneous policy riders, like immigration, included.
If Congress can’t pass a bill by Feb. 28, it will result a partial shutdown of the agency. Johnson said that would mean furloughing about 30,000 employees and those on the frontlines—like those who work in aviation and maritime security—will be forced to work without a paycheck. Johnson said the Federal Emergency Management Agency would also have to furlough about 80% of its workforce.
On ABC’s “This Week,” Johnson said he’s frustrated by all the finger-pointing on Capitol Hill. “When I talked to my friends on the Senate side, they say, ‘Go talk to the House.’ And when I go talk to my friends on the House side, they say, ‘It’s not me. I passed my bill. Go talk to the Senate.’ He added, “…My hope is that in the four working days they have this week, they’ll finally come together and do the right thing and passed an appropriations bill, free and clear of any efforts to defund our executive actions.”
On the Sunday shows, Johnson also reacted to a federal judge in Texas last week temporarily blocking the Obama’s action on immigration. He said the Obama Administration will appeal the judge’s ruling, most likely on Monday.
“This is what appellate courts are for,” Johnson said on “Fox News Sunday.” He added that the administration is prioritizing how it deports people in the country, including those who are criminals or who were apprehended illegally at the border. He said, however, that the reality is there is a “larger segment of the undocumented population that has been here for years, who are not going to be deported in any administration, Democratic or Republican.”
Johnson added, “From my homeland security law enforcement perspective, it is better to find ways to encourage that group of people to come forward, come out of the shadows, get on the books, be accountable, receive a work authorization and pay taxes.”