The House and Senate, unable to break the stalemate over passage of the FY2015 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, decided to give themselves another week to try to reach agreement.
Approaching the midnight hour when the Continuing Resolution (CR) keeping the Department of Homeland Security open would run out, the House agreed to a CR until March 6 that was passed by the Senate earlier in the evening. This action continued the impasse on a funding bill for Homeland Security that began late last year.
In December, Congress approved a FY2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill that contained 11 of the 12 FY2015 appropriations bills. However, the Homeland Security Appropriations bill, which was subject to intense debate after the president announced executive action on immigration, was funded under a Continuing Resolution (CR) through February 27, 20175
Last month the House passed a bill that would fund Homeland Security for the entire FY2015, but included provisions that block implementation of the president’s executive action on immigration. This bill immediately brought a veto threat from the White House and made it highly unlikely that the Senate would be able to pass it over objections by Senate Democrats.
The Republican-controlled Senate repeatedly attempted to pass the House version of the FY2015 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, but Senate Democrats kept the bill from coming to a vote. A Democrat-proposed a bill that stripped out the House immigration provisions also failed to make headway.
However, yesterday Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) allowed a “clean” appropriations bill (devoid on immigration provisions) to move forward long with a separate bill to defund actions to implement the president’s executive order on immigration. After passing a procedural hurdle that allowed the FY2015 Homeland Security appropriations bill to come up for a vote, the full Senate approved the bill 68-31. The separate bill to prohibit funds to implement the president’s action on immigration failed to achieve the required 60 votes to proceed to a final vote.
With the Midnight tonight expiration of the current CR deadline looming and the Department of Homeland Security beginning to prepare for a shutdown (which could involve the furloughing 30,000 employees), the House considered a stopgap measure (H.J. Res 35) that would keep the Department of Homeland Security operating for three weeks until March 19. However, with 52 Republicans opposing and only 12 Democrats supporting it, the three-week CR was defeated 203-224.
The Senate, seeing that the House could not pass “clean” version before or a three-week CR before the deadline, approved by a voice vote a one-week measure keeping the Department of Homeland Security running until March 6. And, as the eleventh hour approached, the House, perhaps reflecting increasing frustration and political anxiety with the lack of progress, overwhelmingly approved the one-week measure 357-60, with 55 Republicans and 5 Democrats in opposition.
The short-term CR gives both chambers a little more time to reach on how to break the impasse. However, with a group of House Republicans continuing their refusal to support a bill that doesn't’t defund the president’s executive action on immigration and the Democrat’s and the president’s staunch opposition to such a bill, one week seems precious little time to reach an agreement.