The U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives are facing a midnight Friday (Feb. 27) deadline to extend funding for the federal Department of Homeland Security and avert a shutdown of that agency.
Republican leaders in both chambers have wanted to make agency funding conditional on a rollback of the president’s immigration executive order, which was issued last fall. The order established federal immigration enforcement priorities, in effect shielding certain undocumented residents from deportation. It directed that criminals and those who recently crossed the border illegally be deported first, while protecting those who are longtime residents, workers, or the parents of American citizens.
Leaders in both chambers have been searching for a way to continue funding while satisfying hardline opponents of the president’s policy. On Friday, the U.S. Senate passed a clean DHS funding extension, 68-31, that would last through September. The House, meanwhile, agreed on a 228-191 vote to hash out the differences with the Senate in a conference committee.
The House then failed to approve a bill that would cleanly extend DHS funding for three weeks, on a 203-224 vote. Some 51 Republicans abandoned their own leadership’s bill, believing it was too lenient on the topic of immigration. The House’s next step was not immediately clear.
The president has threatened to veto any extension that rolls back his executive order. But since the Senate and House have failed to agree on any bill at all, a possible veto has not been the issue. This has allowed the president to “stay out of the GOP crossfire,” as a Washington Post headline put it.
If the shutdown takes effect, nonessential DHS workers would be furloughed and essential workers would remain on the job without pay. Former DHS officials have said that the longer this goes on, the more it will affect worker morale and the more it will compromise national security.
The president’s immigration executive order was issued in large part because Congress failed to pass a comprehensive reform bill in 2014. The Senate approved it, and it had the needed support in the House, but Speaker John Boehner refused to call a vote.