Conservatives rebelled in the House Friday afternoon, joining Democrats to defeat a bill to keep the Homeland Security Department open past a midnight shutdown deadline and leaving funding in doubt as all sides continued to fight over President Obama’s deportation amnesty.
House GOP leaders had hoped to earn a three-week grace period, trying to pass a bill to continue current funding through March 19, but Democrats insisted they would only accept a full bill that didn’t interfere with Mr. Obama’s amnesty, while conservative Republicans felt they were being set up for failure by their own leaders.
The short-term bill was defeated on a 224-203 vote, sending House Speaker John A. Boehner and fellow GOP leaders scrambling for a Plan B after 52 of his Republicans defected to join all but Democrats in voting against the bill.
“Good luck,” shouted one person on the GOP side of the chamber after the vote failed.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, insisted Mr. Boehner back down from the fight against Mr. Obama’s amnesty and instead pass the “clean” funding bill the Senate cleared this morning, after GOP leaders in that chamber backed down.
“For weeks, Speaker Boehner has been lost at sea, torn between what’s right and the hard right of his caucus. Today, the Senate threw Speaker Boehner a life preserver; it’s time for him to take it,” Mr. Schumer said.
But the House has already sent that clean bill back to the Senate, demanding a conference between the two chambers to hammer out differences. At this point, the only difference is that the House bill includes language halting Mr. Obama’s amnesty, while the Senate bill no longer does, after some Republicans joined with Democrats in that chamber to pass the clean bill instead.
The situation as of Friday evening was a muddle.
Democratic leaders said Mr. Boehner cannot count on his own troops, so he will need to abandon them and work with Democrats instead.
They suggested he quickly write a new bill that would match the version that passed the Senate earlier Friday.
“Get a grip,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told Republicans on the House floor just minutes before her Democrats joined conservative Republicans to defeat Mr. Boehner’s plan. “You’ve made a mess.”
Her remarks drew a rebuke from the presiding officer for breaking decorum by addressing her remarks personally to other lawmakers.
Conservatives said they couldn’t vote for the short-term bill because it didn’t explicitly deny Mr. Obama funding for his amnesty programs. The 52 votes against the spending bill shouldn’t have been a surprise to GOP leaders, after more than that number voted against the last temporary funding bill in December.
“I don’t want to approve it even for three weeks, much less the entire year,” said Rep. John Fleming, Louisiana Republican.
He said the GOP should have had the fight back in December, just weeks after Mr. Obama announced his amnesty. Mr. Fleming said that’s when the GOP had the most leverage and could have held up all government funding in order to force the president to back down.
Mr. Fleming said instead of using the intervening months to create a strategy and make their case to voters, Republican leaders squandered the time.