WASHINGTON — Divided Republicans are searching for a way out of an impasse over immigration that is threatening to shut down the Homeland Security Department within days.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he would separate language overturning President Barack Obama’s contested immigration measures from the department’s funding bill.
The move seemed aimed at pressuring Senate Democrats who have opposed the legislation because of a dispute over Obama’s executive actions to limit deportation for millions of immigrants in the United States illegally.
Republicans who control both houses of Congress believe Obama’s actions go beyond his Presidential authority.
The Homeland Security Department’s $40 billion budget is set to run out at midnight Febn. 27.
But Senate Democrats were quick to point out McConnell’s move leaves unanswered the question of how to fund the Homeland Security Department.
“This proposal doesn’t bring us any closer to actually funding DHS,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer. “It’s a disgrace that ISIS and al-Shabab are fully funded, but thanks to Republican game-playing, the Department of Homeland Security might not be.”
ISIS in one acronym for the Islamic State militant group that has taken over much of Iraq and Syria.
In the wake of a federal court’s ruling last week saying Obama overstepped his authority, and putting his immigration actions on hold, a growing number of Senate Republicans argued for letting the immigration fight play out in court, and passing a “clean” bill to fund Homeland Security, free of the language on immigration.
The Obama Administration on Feb. 23 asked the judge to put his immigration ruling on hold and filed a notice of appeal.
House conservatives, however, said the court developments only strengthened their resolve to use the Homeland Security budget to fight Obama on immigration.
They remained adamantly opposed to a funding bill that doesn’t include language blocking Obama on immigration, and also said they would not support a short-term extension of current funding levels.
McConnell’s move came after Obama warned the nation’s governors that states would feel the economic pain of a Homeland Security shutdown, with tens of thousands of workers in line to be furloughed if the agency shuts down at midnight Feb. 27, and many more forced to work without pay.
Within hours of Republicans securing the Senate majority last November, McConnell vowed there would be no government shutdowns, but the immigration fight threatened to shut down the Homeland Security Department and undermine Republican promises that they would show the nation they could govern.
By Erica Werner. AP writers Andrew Taylor and Charles Babington contributed to this report