- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 26, 2015

House Republican leaders Thursday pushed for a short-term bill to fund Homeland Security and avoid a department shutdown this weekend, hoping to buy more time to force Senate Democrats into negotiations over President Obama’s deportation amnesty.

House Speaker John A. Boehner presented the plan to his conference at a closed-door meeting, arguing that keeping the Homeland Security Department open with a three-week funding bill would strengthen Republicans’ bargaining position, according to lawmakers in attendance.

The extra time, he said, would be used to cajole Senate Democrats to follow the legislative process and enter into a conference committee to reconcile the House-passed bill, which included measures to block Mr. Obama’s immigration actions, and the Senate’s expected “clean” bill that will fund Homeland Security without changes.

The Senate will vote on that bill Friday morning, but Minority Leader Harry Reid has vowed not to allow a conference committee, suggesting the stalemate will continue.

“We are not going to be part of their petty games,” said the Nevada Democrat.

The House, meanwhile, will vote on its short-term bill Friday — though conservative lawmakers were skeptical of Mr. Boehner’s plan, which depends on cooperation from Democrats.

“Time will tell if we are in a different position [in three weeks] then we are now and how much strength the speaker has then,” said Rep. Walter P. Jones, North Carolina Republican. “We cave in all the time up here.”

The strategy emerged just hours after Mr. Boehner, Ohio Republican, took his most aggressive stance yet in the standoff.

“It is outrageous that Senate Democrats are using Homeland Security funding for blackmail to protect the actions of the president, when the president himself said he didn’t have the authority to do this,” Mr. Boehner said at his weekly press conference.

The speaker is under intense pressure from Democrats to relent, and from a large faction of his conference to hang tough against Mr. Obama’s actions, which seek to grant legal status, work permits and Social Security numbers to more than 4 million illegal immigrants.

He repeatedly noted the 22 times that Mr. Obama claimed that he did not have the authority to change immigration law before he took the action in November, a move Mr. Boehner and other Republicans call lawless regardless of the substantive merits.

“The Congress of the United States cannot look the other way and act like it didn’t happen,” said Mr. Boehner. “The courts aren’t looking the other way. This is a violation of our Constitution. It’s a violation of the balance of powers in our Constitution and it needs to be addressed and we’re doing it.”

Several Republican lawmakers have insisted that the shutdown is a bluff by Democrats, because nearly 90 percent of the department’s employees are deemed “essential personnel” who would work during a shutdown and eventually get paid.

Still, Democrats and some Republicans remain convinced that the GOP will get blamed for any government shutdown.

Mr. Reid tried to use the terrorist threat to ratchet up the pressure, demanding the House pass a “clean” funding bill without measures to block the president’s immigration actions.

“The American people are frightened, and rightfully so. ISIS appears to have money, terrorists appear to have money, why shouldn’t our homeland have the ability to protect itself,” he said earlier at the Capitol. “This is like living in a world of crazy people.”

Senate Democrats on Wednesday ended the filibuster they sustained for most of February, allowing the House-passed bill to advance after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, agreed to strip out the anti-amnesty provisions.

The deal included a vote on separate legislation against Mr. Obama’s actions, but that would come later.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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