Senate Democrats Take Center Stage in Political Drama over DHS Funding

On Tuesday, Senate Democrats successfully filibustered an appropriations bill that would fund the U.S. Department of Homeland Security until September. The bill, passed by the U.S. House on January 14, includes provisions that threaten President Barack Obama’s executive actions on deferred deportations for certain immigrants who are in the country illegally.

A funding bill for DHS must pass by February 27 or agencies including the TSA, Secret Service, and Customs and Border Protection will partially shutdown.

Senate Republicans failed to pass a motion to proceed on the House bill in a 51-48 vote, 9 votes shy of the 60 needed to end a filibuster. All 44 Democrats, both independents, and two Republicans voted “Nay.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was among the nay votes, but according to The Hill, he changed his vote so he could bring the legislation back to the floor. Illinois Republican Mark Kirk was the only Republican who objected to proceeding with the bill.

It is not clear what McConnell’s next move will be. He could bring the bill up for a vote again, which House conservatives want him to do; however, any bill that reverses the president’s actions on immigration will not likely survive in the Senate as long as the Democrats have the numbers needed to preserve a filibuster. Politico reports that Republicans cannot yet reach a consensus on where to go from here.

February 27 is still over three weeks away, but the Senate could have taken this up in mid-January, giving both sides over a month to work out some sort of deal. Instead, McConnell held off, creating another eleventh hour funding showdown between Republicans and Democrats. House conservatives will not be happy with a “clean” DHS funding bill and Senate Democrats will not even give the president an opportunity to get out the veto pen if the legislation is not changed.

Congress may have a different makeup, but the way it conducts its business looks very similar to the 113th Congress, leading many to believe that nothing has really changed on Capitol Hill.

Will Congress let the DHS shutdown or will they be able to reach an eleventh-hour compromise?