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Senate Democrats block votes on House’s DHS budget bill

DHS budgetSenate Democrats block votes on House’s DHS budget bill

Published 12 February 2015

In late 2014, Republicans decided to fund DHS only through the end of February 2015 in hopes of using further funding request conditioned on defunding the implementation of President Barack Obama’s executive order to halt deportations for many undocumented immigrants. Senate Democrats, on the other hand, are demanding a DHS funding bill which does not interfere with Obama’s immigration plans. On Thursday, for the fourth time, Senate Democrats blocked the Republican move to pass a bill which defunds Obama’s executive order.

In late 2014, Republicans decided to fund DHS only through the end of February 2015 in hopes of using further funding request conditioned on defunding the implementation of President Barack Obama’s executive order to halt deportations for many undocumented immigrants. Senate Democrats, on the other hand, are demanding a DHS funding bill which does not interfere with Obama’s immigration plans.

On Thursday, for the fourth time, Senate Democrats blocked the Republican move to pass such a bill.

The Republican-led House has passed its version of the DHS funding bill and members have urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) to bring the Senate to order and pass the bill before the 27 February deadline, at which point DHS would lose its funding. “It’s time for the Senate to do their work,” House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said earlier this week after meeting with rank-and-file Republicans. “You know, in the gift shop out here, they’ve got these little booklets on how a bill becomes a law.”

He added, “Why don’t you go ask the Senate Democrats when they are going to get off their ass and do something other than voting no?”

According to the Washington Post, as Senate Democrats hold on to their position not to pass the Republican-led DHS funding bill, some top Republicans have urged the House to propose a new bill. “Clearly the DHS bill, as constructed, is not going to get 60 votes” said Senator Lindsey O. Graham (R-South Carolina). “So we would urge the House to do something new.”

House Republicans have refused to rewrite the bill.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has blamed McConnell for failing to get the bill through the Senate. He has also suggested that Republicans should threaten to block Obama’s nominees as a way to force Democrats to pass the House bill.

On Thursday, McConnell asked Senate Democrats to consider the current bill and propose amendments, but not to continue with a filibuster. “If our Democratic colleagues don’t like provision of the bill the House has passed, the Senate has a process for modifying bills,” McConnell said. “It’s called amending them.”

“But the Senate can only consider amendments to a bill if it is not being filibustered,” he added

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) has accused Republicans of holding DHS hostage. “Let us not play politics with terrorism,” he warned, adding: “I think the Republicans realize that this is a losing strategy. Failing to fund the Department of Homeland Security is not a solid message for the new Republican majority.”

Some House Republicans have suggested changing the Senate rules in order to get around the Democratic filibuster. Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-South Carolina) had said that there is a “way to change the rules to allow us to move forward” and “take away the ability to filibuster.”

The Hill notes that Mulvaney’s remarks follow recent comments by Reps. Mo Brooks (R-Alabama) and Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), who suggested that the Senate invoke the “nuclear option” and change its rules so that spending bills would need only a simple majority to advance instead of sixty votes.

Two GOP senators on Thursday rejected the change-of-rules idea floated by House Republicans.

“The answer is not to change Senate rules,” Senator Cruz said at a press conference held by House and Senate conservatives. “The answer is for Senate Democrats not to be obstructionists.”

“I don’t think that’s an option we’re looking at right now,” freshman Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) added, saying that senators should move forward according to current rules.

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