Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH took a gamble that did not pay off with a clean three-week stopgap measure aimed at extending funding for the Department of Homeland Security, whose funds runs out at midnight tonight, Feb. 27, 2015. The measure failed to pass with a vote 203 to 244, with nearly all the Democrats in opposition and 51 Republicans. Even President Barack Obama’s stamp of approval was not enough to get Democrats to vote for it. The bill seemed set for smooth sailing until midday when signs of trouble started, still afterwards a vote passed 228 to 191 to go to conference with the Senate to negotiate the long term bill. In the end, the fight over President Barack Obama’s immigration executive actions mattered more than national security to both Democrats and Republicans.
The GOP leadership is not giving up that easily and after the failed vote, Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy advised members to be available for the rest of Friday, through the weekend in order to vote again and try still to avert a shutdown. The vote was a “defeat” for speaker Boehner. After over an hour debate, a 15-minute vote that started at 4:23 p.m turned into a 52-minute affair as the GOP leadership tried to change their colleagues’ minds and vote for the bill, by 5:15 p.m. the bill had failed. Another option floating around is a one-week extension.
GOP leadership has to decide now if they are willing to take a risk and put the Senate clean $40 billion funding bill to vote that passed 68 to 31 this morning. The bill would receive Democratic support, but is bound to see revolt from Republicans, who are against any DHS funding that does not include provisions defunding the immigration actions that would prevent the deportation of nearly 5 million illegal immigrants. In the end, that same group of conservative Republicans known as the freedom caucus sunk the short-term bill. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-KY intends to speak with the conference before deciding the next move.
If Boehner goes with the clean Senate passed bill, it will be an embarrassment as Congressional Quarterly pointed out, because the key role Democrats would play in passing the bill. Boehner would also be risking a revolt and losing his speakership. Rep. David Jolly, R-FL pointed out Speaker Boehner would “have to rely on 188 Democrats to vote for it, and I think smart political minds would argue it would be the end of his speakership if conservatives saw that happen. So hopefully cooler heads will prevail.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA certainly did not help matters, at weekly press conference on Friday morning, Pelosi said she opposed the continuing resolution (CR), and urged Democrats in the House to oppose it. She said the plan of three-week stopgap bill with a conference with the Senate would “prolong this manufactured crisis … and endanger the security of the American people.” Pelosi also said she “will not dignify House Republicans’ toxic immigrant riders.”
Her position was in complete agreement with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV who vowed not to go to conference on any House bill that includes immigration-defunding provisions. In the end, only 12 Democrats supported the CR. After the vote, Minority Leader Reid issued a statement, mocking the GOP, “Two months into the Republican Congress, we are already staring a Homeland Security shutdown square in the face, even as terrorists around the world threaten to strike America. The Republican Congress has shown that it simply cannot govern.” The Senate also plans to vote on the three-week continuing resolution later on Friday.
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.