House Speaker John Boehner said he is preparing for a potential Department of Homeland Security shutdown later this month, and he already knows where to point fingers over the stalemate in Congress.
“Well, then, Senate Democrats should be to blame. Very simply,” Boehner told Fox News’ Chris Wallace on Sunday. The critical government agency – tasked with overseeing everything from the Transportation Security Administration airport screenings to border enforcement to Coast Guard operations – is on track to shut down by Feb. 27 in the absence of additional funding from Congress. Asked whether he is prepared to see those operations shutter, Boehner was unequivocal.
“Certainly,” he said. “The House has acted. We’ve done our job.”
Congressional Democrats are urging Boehner to allow a clean DHS funding bill to move forward that strips amendments that target President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer assailed the House speaker for risking a partial government shutdown over political gamesmanship.
“When Speaker Boehner tied immigration to DHS funding he knew exactly what he was doing; saying unless I get my way, I’m going to shut down a large part of the government,” Schumer said in a statement. “To now blame Democrats when members of his own party, conservative leaders and others have all asked him to back off this game of chicken is disingenuous at best.”
Funding for the vital agency is being tied to the heart of battle over President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Announced just this last November, the unilateral measures would provide deportation relief and temporary work permits to as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants who currently live in the United States. The first phase of enrollment opens up Wednesday.
The new Republican-controlled Congress sought to bring down the measures through a series of poison pill amendments tacked onto a DHS spending bill, effectively blocking the president’s executive actions on immigration both past and present. Legislation passed the House last month, only to run up against procedural hurdles in the Senate with a Democratic filibuster.
After failing on three separate occasions to bring the bill up for debate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said it’s time for the House to introduce legislation that would pass in the upper chamber.
“It’s clear we can’t go forward in the Senate, unless you all heard something I haven’t,” McConnell said last week.
With little time left on the legislative calendar for members of Congress to avert a DHS shutdown, the stalemate has exposed factions within the Republican Party over whether to target the president’s executive actions by jeopardizing national security operations.
“The American people didn’t give us the majority to have a fight between House and Senate Republicans,” Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said Sunday on “Meet the Press.” “They want things done. We cannot cut funding for the Department of Homeland Security. We need to sit down and work this thing out.”