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U.S. House breaks impasse, passes security funding without provisions

March 3, 2015, 10:46 PM UTC
U.S. Capitol
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 10: The U.S. Capitol building is seen on the evening of June 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Photograph by Alex Wong — Getty Images

(Reuters) – The House of Representatives approved full fiscal-year funding for the U.S. domestic security agency on Tuesday, dealing a blow to conservative Republicans who had wanted the bill to include language blocking President Barack Obama’s recent executive orders on immigration.

The House, in a 257-167 vote, backed a Senate-passed funding bill stripped of any immigration provisions, ending a bitter fight that raised new questions about House Speaker John Boehner’s ability to manage fractious conservatives and brought the agency within hours of a partial shutdown last week.

Obama has said he will sign the funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, which spearheads domestic counterterrorism efforts. Spending authority for the department was scheduled to end at midnight on Friday.

After weeks of drama, Boehner was ultimately left with few – if any – viable procedural options to keep the agency open while also satisfying conservatives who wanted the funding bill to block Obama’s executive actions last year lifting the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented residents.

Senate Democrats had repeatedly blocked a House-passed bill that included the immigration provisions, while Obama and Democrats backed a “clean” funding bill passed by the Senate.

“It’s time to move forward and stop playing these silly games,” said Representative Charlie Dent, a moderatePennsylvania Republican. “Let’s prove to the American people that we’re serious about protecting this homeland and that we have the capacity to govern.”

Several Republicans said they would be better served by putting their energy into legal strategies to overturn Obama’s immigration actions, which have been put on hold by the courts.

“This is where we must focus our actions,” said Republican Representative Mike Simpson of Idaho.


But some conservatives said the House was making a mistake by capitulating on the immigration battle.

“This is a very, very sad day,” said Republican Representative Matt Salmon of Arizona. “If we’re not going to fight now, when are we going to fight?”

On Friday, the House rejected a three-week funding extension and voted to keep the lights on at Homeland Security for one week, seeking more time to battle Obama. But Boehner told Republican House members at a meeting on Tuesday that it was time to allow a vote on the provision-free Senate bill.

“The speaker made the case that he had hoped to continue to fight for three more weeks. Obviously we didn’t win that vote last week, so we are where we are,” said Representative Luke Messer of Indiana, who chairs theRepublican Policy Committee.

“It’s disappointing. I had hoped we’d be able to continue to fight,” he said.

Boehner allowed the use of a procedural motion to bring up the Senate’s funding bill, which passed the House with support from both moderate Republicans and House Democrats.

The bill provides nearly $40 billion in funding for the agency, created after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, that secures U.S. borders, airports, coastal waters and other critical facilities.

Without the funding, the agency would have been forced to furlough about 30,000 employees, or about 15 percent of the agency’s workforce, but about 200,000 others would have stayed on the job without pay, including airport and border security agents.

Boehner suffered an embarrassing setback last week when conservatives rebelled against his plan for a three-week extension, but some said they did not think his ultimate failure on the issue would threaten his leadership.

“I think anybody who’s been watching this knew this is where we were going to end up back in December,” said Representative Thomas Massie, a conservative Republican from Kentucky.