After months of delays and exercises in legislative futility, House Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday allowed the passage of a “clean” funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that would not block any of President Obama’s actions to temporarily protect some unauthorized immigrants from deportation.
The final vote for the funding bill was 257 to 167, with no Democrats voting against the measure and about a third of Republicans voting for it. President Obama signed the bill on Wednesday, ensuring that DHS will be funded through September.
“I’m glad the House finally took the Senate’s lead and passed the DHS funding agreement that was negotiated across the aisle and across the dome, last December,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement.
Passing the bill avoids a partial government shutdown, which would have forced thousands of essential homeland security workers to work without being paid until after the shutdown ended, and sent other “non-essential” workers home. The funding delay has also hurt local governments that depend on a full funding bill to get grants for emergency management and other spending.
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Democrats strongly criticized Republicans for putting national security at risk by refusing to fund DHS without anti-immigration riders.
The road to fully funding DHS was long and full of Republican obstruction.
The three-month temporary funding bill, passed in December to pacify Republicans who wanted to use the budget to fight over immigration once they took the Senate majority, was set to expire on February 27.
In the meantime, anti-immigration Republicans took every opportunity to grandstand on what they deemed Obama’s lawless actions, including during the confirmation of Loretta Lynch to serve as the first Black female attorney general of the United States.
As the February 27 deadline approached, the House passed a DHS funding bill with extreme anti-immigration riders that would not only defund the president’s 2014 executive action, but also his 2012 program protecting young people brought to the country illegally as children.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brought that doomed bill up for a vote four times in a row, only to see it filibustered by Democrats every time. McConnell and Boehner bickered over whether the House or the Senate was responsible for the next move; Boehner blamed McConnell for not being able to get the 60 votes needed to pass the House’s bill, while McConnell said the bill was stuck and the House needed to come up with something else.
On Friday, the final day before a shutdown, Boehner tried to pass a three-week temporary funding bill to give the Senate more time to force through the House’s bill. A combination of Democrats and Republicans blocked that.
Finally, with two hours to go before the department shut down, a one-week extension was passed.
That was enough time for Democrats to block one final attempt to prolong the process, a conference to resolve differences between the two chambers. After that, Boehner relented.
Passing a clean funding bill pits Boehner against his conference’s more extreme right-wing members, whose outrage over Obama’s executive action on immigration first led to the funding fight last November.
But as has happened repeatedly, a hostage-taking fight started by the far right could only end with Boehner caving and compromising with Democrats.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated the funding bill was heading to President Obama’s desk. At the time of publication, however, the bill had been signed.