McConnell to split DHS funding bill from immigration orders

Facing a Friday deadline to fund the Department of Homeland Security or see the department shut down, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is planning to split the funding bill from the controversial amendments that would prevent implementation of the president's executive orders on immigration.

The vote on the stripped funding bill could come as early as tomorrow.

The Hill:

McConnell’s move sets the stage for separate votes on a measure to fund the Homeland Security Department (DHS) past Friday and to dismantle Obama’s unilateral efforts to shield millions of illegal immigrants from deportation.

A House-passed proposal combining those two efforts had hit a wall in the Senate, where Democrats on Monday united for a fourth time this month to block the measure over their opposition to the provisions undoing Obama’s executive actions.

The DHS will suffer a partial shutdown if Congress doesn’t act before Saturday.

McConnell said he wanted to take away Democrats’ excuse for not voting against Obama’s 2014 actions, which several centrist Democrats had previously criticized.

“Some Democrats give the impression they want Congress to address the overreach. But when they vote, they always seem to have an excuse for supporting actions they once criticized,” he said on the floor. “So I’m going to begin proceedings on targeted legislation that would only address the most recent overreach from November.

“It isn’t tied to DHS funding. It removes their excuse,” he added.

McConnell’s decision could mark a step forward from the stalemate over the funding debate, which had left GOP leaders of both chambers struggling for a way to prevent an agency shutdown while appeasing conservatives insisting the immigration riders be a part of the package.

It remains unclear how the strategy will be received by House conservatives, but the office of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was quick to indicate its support.

“This vote will highlight the irresponsible hypocrisy of any Senate Democrat who claims to oppose President Obama’s executive overreach on immigration, but refuses to vote to stop it,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement. “If we are going to work together on the American peoples priorities, Washington Democrats must be honest with the people they represent.”

Democrats quickly criticized McConnell's decision, saying it won't help prevent a shutdown of DHS. 

“It’s becoming clear Senator McConnell realizes he must separate himself from the far right, but the bottom line is this proposal doesn’t bring us any closer to actually funding DHS, and Republicans still have no real plan to achieve that goal," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. 

Can McConnell's gambit work? It depends on how many Republicans in both chambers will be willing to risk the wrath of the conservative base. Are they more frightened of a DHS shutdown or conservative voters back home?

Democrats are not going to do Republicans any favors, but there may be enough Dems in the Senate that would vote with McConnell to bring the stripped down DHS funding bill to the floor. Even if it passes the Senate, it would face an uphill fight in the House.

As for the immigration riders, there may be 3-4 Democrats who would support defunding the president's executive orders. Added to the 55 Republicans, McConnell would still come up short of breaking the Democratic filibuster. The outlook for that vote appears cloudy at best.

Even if the Senate passes the funding bill, Speaker Boehner won't bring it to the floor unless he is sure it will pass. It appears that no vote could take place in the House before the weekend, meaning a DHS shutdown is likely.


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