Boehner Waves White Flag on DHS Spending Impasse
Policy + Politics

Boehner Waves White Flag on DHS Spending Impasse

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told his Republican members Tuesday morning they have no choice but to abandon their efforts to use Department of Homeland Security spending as leverage to block President Obama’s executive orders on immigration.

After weeks of bickering and maneuvering that has divided House and Senate Republicans nearly as much as it pitted Republicans against the White House, the speaker reportedly will send a bill to the floor this afternoon to fully fund DHS through next September.

Related: Boehner’s Future Gets Tangled Up in Funding Battle

Last Friday Boehner tried to push through a three-week extension of DHS spending while Congress and the White House were dueling over immigration policy, but 52 conservative Republicans rejected that approach. “It was just messy,” Boehner said during an appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday. “And I’m not into messy.” 

The situation has reached critical mass: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is at wit’s end trying to convince his Republican colleagues in the House there is no way of blocking Obama’s executive orders other than leaving it to the courts to sort out. And Democrats in the Senate and House are holding firm against any spending bill that has restrictions on the president’s immigration policies.

Boehner can either allow the crisis to fester amid public anxiety over ISIS terror threats or cut his losses.

He told members at a closed-door meeting this morning that the House had done its job by passing legislation last month to simultaneously fund DHS and block implementation of Obama’s executive orders, National Journal reported, but that the GOP-controlled Senate failed to follow suit. Those executive orders would protect as many as 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation.

Related: House Averts DHS Shutdown with 7-Day Spending Extension  

“Unfortunately, the fight was never won in the other chamber,” Boehner said, according to a source who was in the room. “Democrats stayed united and blocked our bill, and our Republican colleagues in the Senate never found a way to win this fight. The three-week CR we offered would have kept this fight going and allowed us to continue to put pressure on Senate Democrats to do the right thing. Unfortunately, that plan was rejected.”

The House’s only choices were to trigger a partial shutdown of DHS, Boehner reportedly said, or approve another one-week short-term continuing resolution as they did last Friday night – or go along with the Senate on a “clean” spending bill without any mention of immigration policy.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a steadfast opponent of Obama’s immigration policies, said there was “zero dissent” among lawmakers as Boehner spoke, at least in part because members have grown exhausted with the constant back-and-forth. Still, there is no way of saying with certainty that conservative Republicans will retreat today and allow the clean spending bill to go through.

Boehner and his lieutenants are no doubt eager to put this latest legislative snafu behind them.  

Related: McConnell Comes Up with a New Anti-Shutdown Tactic

While Boehner has said he loves his job on most days, some in the right wing have wanted to see him gone. In January, some 25 conservative members opposed his reelection as speaker in a vote on the House floor. Many of those members until now have demanded the leadership continue to use the DHS spending bill as leverage in their fight against Obama’s immigration policies.

With more than 50 House Republicans on record as opposing Boehner’s strategy last Friday to extend spending for three more weeks, the question now is whether the speaker is running the show on borrowed time.

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