The Senate’s top Republican said Tuesday he was shifting tactics as legislation to keep the Department of Homeland Security from a partial shutdown remained stalled in Congress just days from a Friday midnight deadline.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., moved to disentangle one of two contested immigration measures from the Homeland Security budget and debate the issues separately.
Late Monday, McConnell took procedural steps to take up stand-alone legislation to reverse President Barack Obama’s November orders to allow millions of immigrants in the country illegally to live and work in the U.S. McConnell would leave in place a 2012 directive that allows immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children to remain in the country.
“As long as Democrats continue to prevent us from even debating that bill, I’m ready to try another way,” McConnell said Tuesday.
But he again ran into opposition from Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who demanded the Homeland Security budget pass first before any immigration debates.
“We’re eager to debate immigration now or any other time,” Reid said. “But… we can’t do that until we fully fund the Department of Homeland Security. We’ve been saying that for four weeks.”
Tuesday’s developments did little to clear up the impasse over immigration that is threatening to partially shut down the Homeland Security Department within days. There’s growing sentiment among Senate Republicans — especially in the wake of last week’s decision by a federal judge to halt Obama’s most recent moves on immigrations — to move beyond the impasse.
A key vote could come Friday on the stand-alone immigration measure, which would likely push the Homeland Security budget past a midnight deadline, though speculation was growing that a short-term budget measure might prevent a shutdown.
McConnell’s move appeared aimed at pressuring Senate Democrats who have opposed the legislation because the immigration language is included. It also would allow Republicans who oppose Obama’s executive actions on immigration to register their opposition with a stand-alone vote on a separate measure.
“Let me vote on a clean Homeland Security and I’ve told the Democrats, they know exactly where I stand. I think the president overreached and I will be voting with the Republicans to repeal the president’s actions,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said in an interview on “Fox and Friends.”
But McConnell left unclear how he would get the department’s funding bill passed ahead of Friday’s midnight deadline to fund the department or see it shut down.
“This proposal doesn’t bring us any closer to actually funding DHS, and Republicans still have no real plan to achieve that goal,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “It’s a disgrace that ISIS and al-Shabab are fully funded, but thanks to Republican game-playing, the Department of Homeland Security might not be.”
ISIS is one acronym for the Islamic State militant group that has taken over much of Iraq and Syria. Over the weekend, a video purported to be released by Somalia’s al-Qaida-linked rebel group al-Shabab urged Muslims to attack shopping malls in Western countries.
After last week’s federal court ruling putting Obama’s immigration programs on hold, a growing number of Senate Republicans argued for letting the immigration fight play out in court, and passing a “clean” bill to fund Homeland Security, free of the language on immigration.
House conservatives, by contrast, said the court developments only strengthened their resolve to use the Homeland Security budget to fight Obama on immigration. They remained adamantly opposed to a funding bill that doesn’t include language blocking Obama on immigration, and also said they would not support a short-term extension of current funding levels.
A partial Homeland Security shutdown would result in some 30,000 administrative and other workers getting furloughed. Some 200,000 others would fall into essential categories and stay on the job at agencies like the Border Patrol, Secret Service and Transportation Security Administration, though mostly without drawing a paycheck until the situation is resolved.