Three strikes and you’re out?
For the third time in as many days, the Senate voted to advance legislation to unravel President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. And for the third time, their efforts failed.
Senate Republicans fell short Thursday of the 60 votes needed to overcome a procedural hurdle to gut the immigration actions through a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security. Congressional Democrats successfully filibustered the legislation for the third time this week, the latest in a 52-47 vote.
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The standoff is running down the clock before funding for the Department of Homeland Security is slated to run dry by Feb. 27. If Congress fails to reach a deal that the president approves by that deadline, administration officials warn critical operations under the agency’s umbrella would be in jeopardy, from immigration enforcement to airport security screening.
Obama reiterated Wednesday that he would not sign any bill that would effectively undo his own unilateral measures that, in sum, would benefit as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants.
“I want to be as clear as possible: I will veto any legislation that got to my desk that took away the chance of these young people who grew up here and who are prepared to contribute to this country that would prevent them from doing so,” Obama said Wednesday in the Oval Office. “I am confident that I can uphold that veto.”
The president invited six DREAMers – undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children – to the White House this week to steer focus toward a popular executive measure that allows young people to temporarily live and work in the United States without the fear of being deported. Nearly 600,000 DREAMers have taken advantage of the program since it began in 2012, and starting in two weeks, thousands more will likely qualify under the president’s latest round of executive actions.
Congressional Republicans have sought to block the executive measures, arguing that Obama has overstepped his authority. House Speaker John Boehner has already said he may sue the president over the unilateral actions. House Republicans took it a step further by tacking on a set of toxic amendments to the crucial DHS funding that would strip fees from being allocated to the executive actions and prevent DREAMers from renewing their applications under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Democrats are demanding for their counterparts in Congress to introduce a clean DHS spending bill that drops the poison amendments.
“There are only 23 days left until the Department of Homeland Security shuts down,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said at her weekly briefing Thursday, adding that Congress will be in session for only eight of those days. “We have to pass a clean homeland security bill, and we have to do it immediately.”
The Republican strategy to target the immigration actions through a bill to fund the nation’s domestic security interests has lawmakers playing with fire for a looming agency shutdown. Prominent Republicans even publicly criticized the majority leader’s decision to call for additional votes, a move that eats up time with a symbolic effort that is all but guaranteed to fail.
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“Is that the definition of insanity? Voting on the same bill over and over again?” Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said to reporters Wednesday.
Another Arizona Republican, Sen. Jeff Flake, said he did not feel the DHS funding bill was the proper venue to address qualms with the president’s executive actions, National Journal reported.
“My preference has always been to address Obama’s action with legislation,” Flake said. “I think we see the end of this movie.”