House Speaker John Boehner implored Senate Democrats today to “get off their ass” and approve a measure to fund the Department of Homeland Security. He said he had no intention of throwing Senate Republicans a lifeline by passing a substitute bill that did not include provisions to block President Obama’s executive action on immigration.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday admitted the House bill is “clearly stuck in the Senate,” a stark admission that the Republican-controlled Congress was locked in a major impasse. But Boehner insisted the House will not budge and sought to pressure a small group of Senate Democrats who have signaled their discomfort with the president’s immigration moves.
“The House did its job,” Boehner, R-Ohio, repeated four times during a news conference at the Capitol. “We won the fight to fund the Department of Homeland Security and to stop the president’s unconstitutional actions. Now it’s time for the Senate to do their work.”
“You know, in the gift shop out here they’ve got these little booklets on how a bill becomes a law,” Boehner continued. “The House has done its job! Why don’t you go ask the Senate Democrats when they are going to get off their ass and do something other than to vote no!”
The fight has little to do with most functions of the department, which was established in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The disagreement is over Republicans trying to block the president’s executive action on immigration. And the clock is ticking ever closer to the Feb. 27 deadline when the department runs out of money.
Democrats have repeatedly blocked the bill in the Senate, getting an early start on earning the obstructionist label they so often assigned to their Republican rivals.
Seeing no path to 60 votes to proceed to debate on the House bill, McConnell urged Boehner and the House to try passing another measure – perhaps without the controversial immigration language – that could pass the Senate.
“It's clear we can't get on the bill, we can't offer amendments to the bill, and I think it would be pretty safe to say we're stuck because of Democratic obstruction on the Senate side,” McConnell, R-Kentucky, said. “So the next move, obviously, is up to the House.”
But Boehner has tuned out that plea for help.
“I love Mitch,” Boehner said with a smile. “He has a tough job to do and so do I.”
To complicate matters, Congress is scheduled to be out of session next week for its first recess of the year. That leaves only six scheduled legislative days to find a solution and send a bill to the president.
“If there's something they don't like about it, the legislative process actually allows them to put an amendment at the desk and go and fight to make that change,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, said. “That's how this legislative process works.”
Congress often waits until the 11th hour, particularly on difficult budget proposals, but Republican leaders concede there is no clear exit strategy for this fight.