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Homeland Security facing GOP shutdown threat

Avoiding a shutdown is a "rock-bottom, de minimis test of GOP governance," and yet, it's a test the party may very well fail this week.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testifies during a hearing, Feb. 26, 2014, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testifies during a hearing, Feb. 26, 2014, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Current funding for the Department of Homeland Security expires this Friday, thanks entirely to a ridiculous budget scheme congressional Republicans cooked up for themselves. John Harwood noted last week that avoiding a shutdown is a "rock-bottom, de minimis test of GOP governance," and yet, it's a test the party may very well fail.
"It's absurd that we're even having this conversation about Congress' inability to fund Homeland Security in these challenging times," DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said during one of his five Sunday show appearances yesterday. He added that he hopes someone in Congress "will exercise some leadership."
In theory, we might have expected to see some of this elusive leadership last week -- with a looming deadline, lawmakers could have invested real effort in resolving the problem before the last minute. Instead, congressional Republicans took last week off, doing no apparent work on the mess they created.
They'll return to Capitol Hill today, where they'll pick up where they left off.
In these final days before the Homeland Security Department is due to shut down, two things are certain: One, the Senate will hold its fourth vote Monday to start debate on a DHS funding bill that also would scrap President Obama's executive action to defer deportations for some 4 million undocumented immigrants. Two, the outcome will be the same as it has been the last three times: Democrats will vote "no," and the impasse will remain.
Monday's roll call will reiterate what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been saying for two weeks -- the legislation is stuck in the Senate, and the chamber needs another bill from the House in order to move forward.
That may sound like some kind of joke, but it's real -- the Senate will go through the motions, again, defeating a doomed bill just for the sake of doing so. The timeline of events really is both amazing and alarming for those concerned with DHS operations.
House Republicans, knowing full well that their spending bill would never become law with extraneous anti-immigration provisions, passed it anyway. It went to the Senate, where Senate Democrats, as promised, blocked the bill with a filibuster.
Senate Republicans brought it back up soon after, in case Democrats had changed their minds. Again, the bill couldn't muster anywhere close to 60 votes. A day later, Senate Republicans tried again, and it failed for a third time.
And today the GOP majority will bring the same bill to the floor for a fourth time, where it will meet the same fate. The unstated point of this repetition is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) way of telling his House brethren, "No, really. I'm not kidding. This bill can't pass. Send us something else."
According to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), that's not going to happen. He advanced a bill that can't become law, which in his mind means, "The House has acted. We've done our job."
Jeh Johnson added yesterday that these tactics are "unacceptable from a public safety, homeland security view," though with time running out, it's not clear if GOP leaders care. Indeed, keep in mind that for many congressional Republicans, including the chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, a partial shutdown of DHS just doesn't matter.
Even after a right-wing judge in Texas offered Congress an easy way out of this mess, GOP lawmakers ignored it and hardened their positions.
There's some chatter about Republicans briefly extending their own deadline, passing a measure funding DHS for another month or two, but that obviously wouldn't solve the underlying problem and such a short-term fix would have to come together very quickly to avoid this week's deadline.
Tick tock.