In rebuke to GOP leadership, House fails to pass stopgap DHS funding

February 27, 2015 in News by RBN Staff

Source: Christian Science Monitor 

Sat. Feb. 28, 12:08am CT
AP Reports “House OKs bill to fund Homeland Security for 1 week” 
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On Friday, a temporary funding measure for the Department of Homeland Security failed 203 to 224 in the House. It was exactly what Speaker John Boehner had promised would not happen with a Congress completely under GOP control.

Speaker of the House John Boehner walks to the chamber as the House failed to advance a short-term funding measure to keep the Department of Homeland Security funded past a midnight deadline Friday evening. Conservatives in Speaker Boehner’s own party fought against three-week funding measure because it would not overturn Obama’s actions on immigration. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

In a dramatic meltdown of the GOP caucus, hardline conservatives in the House voted against even a three-week funding measure for the Department of Homeland Security on Friday, steering the department toward a shutdown when funds run out at midnight.

It was exactly what Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio had promised would not happen with a Congress completely under GOP control. It exposed – once again – the difficulty he has in corralling his widely divergent caucus. The temporary funding measure failed 203 to 224, with 52 Republicans and all but 12 Democrats voting nay. 

As Rep. Charles Dent (R) of Pennsylvania said on the eve of the vote: “Bad tactics yield bad outcomes.”  

Representative Dent, a co-chair of the center-right “Tuesday Group,” has been arguing for a “clean” DHS funding bill – with no “poison pill” riders blocking the president’s immigration action – since December.

That’s the bipartisan bill that eventually passed the Senate earlier on Friday and that would have enjoyed bipartisan support in the House had it been brought up – though it would have alienated the “hell no” caucus, as it’s called.

But the speaker, seeking to keep alive the fight over the president’s immigration moves, proposed instead a temporary funding bill for the department.

During the three weeks, House and Senate conferees were to seek to bridge the differences between the House bill that blocked the president’s perceived overreach on immigration, and the clean Senate bill. But all along, Senate Democrats have made it clear they would consider nothing less than a clean bill. 

Hard-line Republicans in the House, perceiving that Speaker Boehner was not fighting hard enough against what they consider the president’s constitutional overreach, rebelled. Clearly, “we’re not seeing the ‘tooth and nail’ ” fight that the speaker had promised, said Rep. John Fleming (R) of Louisiana, who voted against the measure. 

Like Congressman Fleming, a conservative from Virginia also brought up the constitutional issue.

“If you’re in touch with your [constituents], they’ve been mad since President Obama exhibited his lack of respect for the Constitution by giving legal status to people who violated the law,” said Rep. Walter Jones (R) of Virginia. “That is a large part of the vote today.”

In disarray, the leadership called for a conference of Republican House members in order to discuss next steps. Members were told to expect votes later Friday night and over the weekend.

Republicans such as Representative Fleming criticized the speaker for not delivering “results,” and some wonder whether conservatives will again challenge his speakership as they did in January. 

Others expressed empathy for their leader. “I just can’t imagine the frustration the speaker has right now,” said Rep. Steve Womack (R) of Arkansas.

After the dramatic failure of the spending measure, Democrats urged Boehner to bring up the Senate bipartisan bill, even while they sharply criticized him.

“The Republican Congress has shown that it simply cannot govern,” said Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada in a statement, saying the country was “staring a Homeland Security shutdown square in the face, even as terrorists around the world threaten to strike America.”

Referring to the bipartisan bill passed earlier Friday in the Senate, he said: “There is a bipartisan majority for the same clean, yearlong Homeland Security funding bill in the House and Republican leaders should bring it to a vote immediately.”