- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The logjam over homeland security funding broke wide open Wednesday, as Senate Democrats ended their filibuster and cleared a path out of the chambers’ shutdown showdown with just two days until the department runs out of funds this weekend.

But the deal that got the bill moving — a pledge by Senate Republican leaders to strip out the parts that would block President Obama’s deportation amnesty and give Democrats the “clean” bill they demanded — will toss a hot potato into the lap of House Speaker John A. Boehner.

“All eyes now shift to House Republicans,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, when he announced that his party would drop its filibuster.

A day earlier, Mr. Reid balked at the deal and said he wouldn’t take it unless Mr. Boehner guaranteed a House vote on the clean bill. He reversed course abruptly Wednesday, but he insisted that Democrats would not negotiate in a conference committee if the House passed an altered version of the bill.

Mr. Reid also backed off an earlier promise that Democrats wouldn’t filibuster a separate bill against the president’s move to grant legal status, work permits and Social Security numbers to more than 4 million illegal immigrants.

Democrats now would block that bill until the funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security clears the House, he said.

Still, the filibuster ended with a 98-2 vote to bring the bill to the floor. After sustaining the filibuster for most of February, every Senate Democrat voted in favor of taking up the bill.

The only votes against it came from Republican Sens. James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Jeff Sessions of Alabama. Both senators have been outspoken critics of Mr. Obama’s immigration actions, which they insist are illegal and unconstitutional.

Other conservative senators share those views but fell in line behind Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, including Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican who has often challenged the GOP leadership.

A final vote on the bill could come as soon as Thursday, sending it to the House with just hours to spare.

The Department of Homeland Security will shutdown partially when current funding runs out Friday.

Lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol have suggested a short-term funding bill to give them more time.

House Republican leaders have told the members not to make any weekend plans and to be ready for votes.

The deal could force Mr. Boehner, Ohio Republican, to choose between satisfying a large faction of his conference that is ready to fight the president’s immigration action to the bitter end or averting a shutdown by passing the bill with a majority of Democratic votes.

The later would tempt a rebellion among rank-and-file Republicans.

“It will be a dramatic time if that happens,” said Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican and a leader of the opposition to the president’s deportation amnesty.

Mr. Boehner also would suffer the wrath of conservatives groups that have vilified Mr. McConnell for capitulating to Democrats.

Tom Zawistowski, executive director of the Portage County (Ohio) Tea Party, said the double-cross by Mr. McConnell would turn voters against Republicans and cost the party control of the Senate and the White House in 2016.

“Their refusal to fight and win on DHS only provides further proof that they lied to the voters in 2014. Millions of Republican’s and conservatives will no longer be played for fools by voting for liars and hypocrites,” he said.

House conservatives remained optimistic that Mr. Boehner will stand his ground.

“Everything we are hearing from our leadership is that they have no intention of passing a clean DHS bill,” said Rep. John Fleming, Louisiana Republican. “Our base is out there fired up. They do not want us to pass this.”

He said a shutdown was still possible.

“If there is a shutdown it will be because Democrats insist on us funding something that’s already been deemed unlawful and unconstitutional,” he said.

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