U.S. congressional Republicans hit an impasse on Tuesday over a Homeland Security funding bill that would block President Barack Obama’s immigration actions, with Senate leaders suggesting the House of Representatives try another approach.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans could not get around Senate Democratic opposition to the House-passed legislation, which failed to get the 60 votes needed to clear procedural hurdles in three separate votes last week.
“I think it’s clear we can’t go forward in the Senate,” the Kentucky senator told reporters. “So the next move obviously is up to the House.”
Congress needs to act by a Feb. 27 deadline to renew the spending authority for the Department of Homeland Security, a massive agency that spearheads domestic counterterrorism efforts and secures U.S. borders, airports and coastal waters.
The House version of the spending bill also would defund Obama’s executive orders in 2012 and 2014 lifting the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants. The president has threatened to veto the House-passed measure, and Democrats are insisting on a “clean” funding bill with no immigration restrictions.
Although many of the critical protective functions of the department would continue even if funding lapses, the agency would be forced to idle about 30,000 employees, or 15 percent of the workforce, at a time of heightened worry about terror attacks.
The Senate’s No. 2 Republican, Texas Senator John Cornyn, said the upper chamber could try again to take up the bill but said he doubted anything would change.
“We tried three times. I guess we could try more times in the Senate but I suspect the outcome would be the same,” said Cornyn, who is Senate majority whip.
The inability of the Senate’s new Republican majority to act on the measure has frustrated Republicans in the House, and they showed little inclination on Tuesday to act again just because the Senate cannot.
“Until there is some signal from those Senate Democrats what would break their filibuster, there’s little point in additional House action,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.
Senator Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, said the most likely outcome to the impasse would be passage of a bill continuing department funding for a short time while Republicans reconsider their options.