No clear signs of deal to fund Homeland Security Department

Senate Democrats are expected to block any plans for formal talks

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, walks to the chamber as the House failed to advance a short-term funding measure to keep the Department of Homeland Security funded past a midnight deadline, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday evening, Feb. 27, 2015. Conservatives in Speaker Boehner's own party fought against three-week funding measure because it would not overturn Obama’s actions on immigration. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republican leaders on Sunday demanded that Democrats begin negotiations on funding for the Homeland Security Department and President Barack Obama’s unilateral actions on immigration. Democrats showed no indication they were willing to talk, and some Republicans said the party should simply surrender and give the agency money without conditions.

With a partial shutdown of the department possible at week’s end, Speaker John Boehner said the House wants to enter talks with the Senate on a final bill and pointed to Monday’s scheduled Senate vote. Congress late Friday cleared a one-week extension for the department after 52 House conservatives defied the Republican leadership and helped scuttle legislation that would have given the agency a three-week reprieve.

“We want to get a conference with the Senate. Now, they’ve made clear that they don’t want to go to conference. But they’re going to have a vote. If they vote, in fact, not to get a conference, this bill may be coming back to the House,” Boehner said Sunday on CBS television’s “Face the Nation.”

Friday’s humiliating defeat produced a backlash in the House, with some Republicans criticizing their conservative colleagues and others arguing it was time to fully fund the agency for the year and move on.

Republican Rep. Peter King, a former chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, said Boehner needs to find a way to get a bill to the House floor without the divisive immigration provisions.

“There’s no doubt it will pass. … We cannot allow this small group to block it. Once … this comes to a vote, we get it behind us, we go forward, then we really, as Republicans, have to stand behind the speaker and make it clear we’re not going to allow this faction to be dominating and to be impeding what we’re trying to do,” King said.

Conservatives were angered enough by a three-week funding extension with no rollback of the directives Obama signed in November to spare millions of immigrants from deportation and by Democrats insisting on full-year funding to sink the legislation.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi agreed to a one-week extension and told her Democratic rank-and-file in a letter to back the seven-day extension because, “your vote will assure that we will vote for full funding next week.”

Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 3 House Republican said Sunday there was no such deal.

But privately, a senior Democratic congressional aide said Boehner spoke to Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, and committed to bringing up a bill without conditions. The person spoke anonymously to relate a private conversation.

Boehner on Sunday acknowledged that Friday “wasn’t all that fun,” but called the House a “rambunctious place.”

“We have 435 members. A lot of members have a lot of different ideas about what we should and shouldn’t be doing,” Boehner said.

Republicans consider Obama’s executive orders on immigration to be unconstitutional and an abuse of presidential power. Democrats say Obama’s actions were within the law and came only after the House failed to take action on a bipartisan immigration reform bill approved by the Senate. A federal judge in Texas has put implementation of Obama’s immigration orders on hold as courts consider a lawsuit filed by several dozen states against the president’s actions.

A spokesman for Reid said Sunday there will be no negotiations with the House over Homeland Security funding and immigration. Senate Democrats are expected to block any plans for formal talks in Monday night’s vote.

“House Republicans want a conference for counterproductive reasons: They want to take a clean bill that can pass Congress and be signed into law and turn it into something that can’t pass by loading it back up with poison pill riders,” said Adam Jentleson, Reid’s spokesman.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein said she doesn’t envision her Senate Democratic colleagues budging in their insistence on a so-called clean bill, in this instance, one that focuses solely on the funding and does not include the immigration provisions.

Scalise was on “Fox News Sunday,” King spoke on ABC’s “This Week” and Feinstein made her comments on CNN’s “State of the Union.”


Associated Press writers Donna Cassata and Erica Werner contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press

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