(Bloomberg) — Congress is poised to avoid a partial
shutdown of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security tonight the
same way lawmakers have addressed a series of previous funding
battles — by punting.
The House is preparing to vote Friday to fund the agency
through March 19, and the Senate probably will agree. Current
funding ends at midnight.
The move gives lawmakers three more weeks to argue over
House Republicans’ demand that a longer-term funding bill for
Homeland Security also block President Barack Obama’s November
orders protecting about 5 million undocumented immigrants from
“This type of Band-Aid, stopgap funding fix is not the way
we should be running things around here,” said House
Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, a Kentucky
Republican, speaking on the floor Friday. Still, the bill is
needed to “buy time” to reach a long-term funding deal, he
House Republicans want to hold conference committee talks
over their chamber’s plan to link the Homeland Security and
immigration issues. Democrats oppose tying agency funding to
immigration policy. The Republican-led Senate voted 68-31 Friday
to fund the agency through September without addressing Obama’s
The last-minute funding maneuver comes less than two months
after Republicans took control of both chambers of Congress.
McConnell has said the party must show that it can govern and
that there will be no government shutdowns like the one in
The short-term Homeland Security funding fix means
Republicans will spend another three weeks on this issue instead
of moving forward on other agenda items. Congress also has spent
time this year passing legislation to approve the Keystone
pipeline, which was vetoed by Obama on Tuesday.
“It’s like Groundhog Day,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a
New Hampshire Democrat. “It puts us back in the same position
three weeks from today.”
Without new money the Homeland Security agency’s employees
would be put on furlough or required to work without pay.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio is under pressure from
Tea Party-backed Republicans to use the Homeland Security bill
as leverage after he promised a battle over Obama’s immigration
orders this year.
Obama has said he would veto any legislation that would
reverse his orders on immigration.
Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said members
of his party would agree to the three-week spending bill, H.J.
Res. 35, even though they prefer to finance the agency through
September, the end of the fiscal year. The longer-term funding
bill is H.R. 240.
“Obviously we’re not going to shut down government,”
Schumer said at a news conference. Republicans are “not giving
us much choice.”
The 16-day partial shutdown in October 2013 was caused by
an unsuccessful Republican effort to defund Obamacare. In other
funding battles, Republicans and Democrats have voted to provide
short-term spending to keep the government operating while
related disputes are resolved.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky
Republican, agreed with Democrats that the Senate would address
the dispute on immigration policy in a separate bill. The
chamber blocked that bill, S. 534, on a 57-42 procedural vote
Friday with 60 required. The measure can be brought up again
Voting with Senate Republicans to advance the immigration
bill were Democrats Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Joe Manchin of
West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly
Reid reiterated Friday that Democrats will block
negotiations on Obama’s orders on immigration in a conference
committee while Homeland Security remains under short-term
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson sent House and
Senate leaders a letter Thursday saying a temporary measure
“exacerbates the uncertainty for my workforce and puts us back
in the same position, on the brink of a shutdown just days from
A partial shutdown would require 30,000 Homeland Security
employees to be furloughed and 170,000 essential personnel to
keep working without pay, according to Johnson.
The Homeland Security Department includes the Coast Guard,
Secret Service, Customs and Border Protection, Transportation
Security Administration and the Federal Emergency Management
To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Jodi Schneider at