​Senate GOP looks for Plan B to avoid Homeland Security shutdown

Reuters//Larry Downing
As the GOP searches for ways to avoid a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Senate Republicans have proposed voting on a bill to fund the agency which does not void President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

The new proposal would split the current bill being considered by the Senate in two. Lawmakers would vote on a “clean” DHS funding bill, with no provisions to block the president’s recent actions eliminating the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants. Attempts to block the immigration moves would be handled in a separate vote.

READ MORE: Dept. of Homeland Security shutdown looms, would idle 15% of workforce

Introduced Tuesday by Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the idea marks the first time Republicans have floated a compromise measure over DHS funding since wrangling over the issue began. Democrats have filibustered attempts to advance a bill previously passed by the GOP-led House of Representatives, which would unravel Obama’s immigration orders.

Meanwhile, President Obama has said he would veto any bill undoing his executive actions. Funding for DHS expires Friday night, giving lawmakers only a few days to resolve their issues.

McConnell said he has discussed splitting the bill in two with Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), though it’s unclear just how much support his idea has.

"I don't know what's not to like about this," McConnell told reporters, as quoted by the Huffington Post. "This is an approach that respects both points of view and gives senators an opportunity to go on record on both funding the Department of Homeland Security and expressing their opposition to what the president did last November."

For his part, Reid said that support for the deal depends on whether or not Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) is on board. "Unless Boehner is in on the deal, it won't happen," Reid told Fox News.

House Republicans, including Boehner, have insisted they will not backtrack on their position or support a clean funding bill. Earlier this month, Boehner said he would “certainly” allow the DHS to shut down if that’s what the situation came down to. While the House GOP is scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss how to move forward, Boehner's spokesperson, Michael Steel, reiterated Boehner's position on Tuesday.

"The Speaker has been clear: the House has acted, and now Senate Democrats need to stop hiding. Will they continue to block funding for the Department of Homeland Security or not?" Steel said.

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Other conservatives were also displeased with McConnell’s proposal. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said that lawmakers should keep the pressure on the White House and keep trying to pass a bill voiding Obama’s immigration orders.

"I think it is a big deal of huge, historic importance," Sessions said, according to the National Journal. “I will be glad to consider what our leaders have talked about, but I remain firmly convinced that at this point Congress should put the heat where it belongs, and that is on the president."

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) called McConnell’s plan “surrender,” and said it would not make it through the House.

If the DHS is shut down for political reasons, roughly 30,000 employees would find themselves temporarily out of work. About 85 percent of the department’s employees would still report to work, but procurement, hiring, training, administrative support, and “the bulk” of management involved in coordinating efforts such as domestic anti-terror operations would be affected by a shutdown.

Notably, US Citizenship and Immigration Services – the agency responsible for implementing Obama’s immigration order – would not be affected by a shutdown.