Tuesday afternoon, the House finally passed legislation that will fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the balance of this fiscal year.
Backed by House Speaker John Boehner, the so-called “clean” DHS budget bill had stripped out of it the controversial amendments that would have defunded President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and other presidential executive orders related to immigration some of the more ultra-right wing members of the House wanted attached to the bill because they believe the executive orders are unconstitutional.
As the clock ticked down to midnight last Friday when DHS would ran out of money that’d earlier been appropriated through Feb. 27 via a continuing resolution (CR), the House agree to yet another CR proposed by the Senate that would continue funding DHS for one more week, hoping somehow, someway this week they could push their DHS spending bill with the executive action defunding provisions through the Senate.
The Senate went along with the one-week extension to fund DHS in an attempt to prevent the shutdown of DHS in an adamant show of defiance against the Fiscal Year 2015 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act (HR 240) passed by the House in December that contained the controversial amendments politicians on both sides of the aisle knew along would sabotage the House funding bill in the Senate, despite GOP control of the chamber.
Senate Democrats and some realistic and pragmatic senior Republicans had stated from the beginning that they would not vote for the bill if the amendments were attached. But they were anyway.
With homeland security in the balance, Boehner pulled together enough votes to pass a clean funding bill this afternoon. The legislation passed 257 to 167, with only 75 Republican votes and all Democrats voting in favor. Obama is expected tosign it, although the bill does include hundreds of millions of dollars to maintain the operation and expansion of illegal alien family detention facilities acrossthe country.
According to The New York Times this afternoon, “In a closed meeting of Republicans, Mr. Boehner told members that he was ‘as outraged and frustrated as you at the lawless and unconstitutional actions of this president,’ according to one person who was in the room, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Mr. Boehner added that he thought the decision was ‘the right one for this team, and the right one for this country.’”
House Republicans really had no choice but to fall in line and finally pass a clean funding bill. The undoubted political fallout they’d have been slammed with by Democrats – and the public – had DHS operations been halted impacting public safety and homeland counterterrorism activities, their recovery from the ordeal could have been difficult.
"Several hours ago the House voted to enact a clean, full-year appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security. The Senate did the same last Friday. A bill funding the Department for the entire Fiscal Year 2015 is now on its way to the President for signature. It is a good bill, which provides $39.7 billion to fund vital homeland security missions," responded DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson.
"On behalf of the approximately 225,000 men and women of the Department of Homeland Security, we thank those in Congress – Democrats and Republicans – who voted for this bill and, in particular, those in Congress who showed the leadership necessary to get the job done," he said.
"Congress has done a good thing," Johnson continued, saying, "It has fully funded homeland security. It has provided our people a strong bipartisan vote of confidence in the importance of their work. Now our men and women can return to the vital work of combatting terrorism, ensuring border security, port security, aviation security, cybersecurity and our other vital homeland security missions, without the uncertainty of a furlough or a delayed paycheck hanging over their heads."
Johnson added, "Sunday marked the 12th anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security. Today, as we pursue our vital missions, we are reforming the way we manage the department, we are filling all the senior-level vacancies, we are improving our responsiveness to Congress, we are strengthening border security, we are advancing cybersecurity, we are rebuilding the Coast Guard fleet, we are improving the immigration system, we are reforming the Secret Service, and doing a number of other things to improve the department and homeland security."
The immediate response by Democrats and Republicans wasn’t surprising.
House Committee on the Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) stated, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid “and Senate Democrats have defied the will of the American people by repeatedly obstructing debate on a House-passed bill that would provide critical funding for homeland security and defund the President’s unilateral actions on immigration. President Obama’s unilateral rewriting of our immigration laws poses a clear and present danger to the Constitution and must be stopped. The stakes are too high to surrender and we must stand firm to defend the Constitution. Since the bill voted on today by the House of Representatives did not stop President Obama’s lawless actions, I voted against it.”
“This fight is not about immigration; it’s about the Constitution and preserving the rule of law,” Goodlatte continued, insisting that, “If we don’t stop President Obama’s executive overreach on immigration, future presidents will continue to expand the power of the Executive Branch and encroach upon individual liberty. We must continue to use all tools at Congress’ disposal to stop the President’s egregious abuse of authority, such as taking legal action and passing legislation.”
“This is not a fight that Republicans picked," said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas). "This is not even about Republicans or Democrats: it’s about the rule of law. The president himself has repeatedly admitted more than twenty times that he lacked the constitutional authority to take the executive amnesty actions he took. The president cannot simply rewrite laws on his own and expect Congress and the American people to look the other way."
Smith said, “In January the House voted to fully fund the Department of Homeland Security while putting a stop to the president’s unilateral, unlawful executive actions. This was a reasonable response to the president’s unreasonable, extreme overreach. Yet Senate Democrats – several of whom condemned the president’s actions – acted to prevent any debate or action on that bill. Today’s vote is being hailed as a victory for the president; it is truly a defeat for the American people and the Constitution."
“This fight must continue in the courts … I will continue to support these efforts in the hope that constitutional interests will prevail.”
Smith has consistently voted multiple times to defund the president’s executive actions.
Meanwhile, Goodlatte said this week his committee “is considering several bills that strengthen the enforcement of our immigration laws and stop President Obama’s ability to shut down immigration enforcement efforts unilaterally. One of these bills also contains a prohibition on using funds to enact President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. We must do all we can within our constitutional authority to stop President Obama’s lawlessness.”
In December, Goodlatte signed an amicus brief submitted to the federal court by the American Center for Law and Justice in support of the lawsuit filed by 26 Republican-run states challenging President Obama’s executive overreach on immigration. On February 17, Texas US District Judge Andrew S. Hanen temporarily blocked the Obama administration’s executive actions in response to the lawsuit. The judge ruled the administration does not have the power “to give 4.3 million removable aliens what the Department of Homeland Security itself labels as ‘legal presence.’ In fact, the law mandates that these illegally-present individuals be removed.”
With the opinion behind them, House Republicans had believed they had momentum on their side to get the Senate to pass their FY 2015 DHS funding bill with the “poison pill” amendments. But that was not to be, as the federal judge’s ruling is being appealed by the administration and undoubtedly will be taken all the way to the Supreme Court.
With the judge’s stay in place, more realistic House Republicans urged the Speaker and their colleagues to go ahead and pass a clean DHS spending bill; saying that the amendments defunding the President’s executive orders were effectively – for the time, anyway – halted. The pragmatists told those in favor of the defunding measures that they now should take them up separately and pass a clean DHS spending bill.
"Sanity is prevailing. I do give John Boehner credit," said Rep. Peter King (R-NY), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee.
“Voting on the fiscal year 2016 DHS budget is going to come soon enough,” one of the House supporters of the clean FY 2015 bill finally passed today said on background.
Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) said, “The top priority of Congress is to ensure the safety of the American people. Today’s vote ensures that our homeland security agents and personnel have the certainty and long term funding necessary to do their critical work of keeping us all safe."
While Denham said, "I do not support the President’s unilateral executive action on immigration as it flies in the face of the United States Constitution and ignores the will of the people … we cannot hold hostage funding for our national security and I will continue to push for a full debate on every aspect of immigration reform.”
“Now that Congress has done its job, it’s time to move on and address other critical issuesfor our nation and the department," said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. "That includes passing cybersecurity information sharing legislation, confirming Russell Deyo as the department’s Under Secretary for Management, and moving forward with our consideration of the department’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget. At the same time, Congress should begin a badly-needed debate on a comprehensive and thoughtful 21st century immigration policy for our nation — a policy that is fair, that will significantly reduce the nation’s budget deficit, and that will strengthen the economic recovery now underway."
“I am relieved that after weeks of unnecessary drama – stirred up by a radical faction of the Republican party – we have finally passed a clean, full-year bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security,” said Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
“Democrats have been asking for this since December, and it is what the taxpayers expected us to do," he continued. "While it is clear that Democrats forced Speaker Boehner to stop playing political games with our homeland security budget, there are no winners here. We should have passed this bill last year and spent recent months trying to address evolving threats posed by radicalized extremists and cyber hackers whose attacks are becoming more and more sophisticated. Although the Majority’s actions have given little reason, I hope that we can work together on these critical issues and stop this pattern of governing from crisis to crisis.”
"I hope Republicans learned their lesson, we should never play games with our national security or with the well-being of our country,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.). “There is too much at risk and the American people deserve better.”
“I commend Republicans for finally joining us in passing a clean DHS funding bill that provides appropriate level of funding and certainty for DHS employees to do their job and keep the American people safe,” Gallego said, adding, “Rather than keeping government funding hostage over the President’s executive actions, Republicans should work with us to pass immigration reform that is good for our economy and keeps families together. That is the ultimate long term solution for how to deal with an immigration system that badly needs to be overhauled.”
Nita Lowey (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Appropriations, said, “I am pleased the House has finally passed the 2015 Homeland Security Appropriations Act, providing critical agencies the resources they need to protect our borders, ports, aviation system and communities. I am hopeful that this experience will make the most extreme elements in Congress think twice about attempting to hold critical funding hostage to enact divisive and ideological riders. The appropriations process is too important for political games.”
American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr., said, “After taking us to the brink of a shutdown, lawmakers finally have seen the light of day and approved a funding bill that will ensure operations at the Department of Homeland Security will continue uninterrupted through the rest of the fiscal year. DHS employees safeguard our borders, skies, waterways, public buildings and communities. It’s unfortunate that the 230,000 federal employees who work at this vital department had to face the prospect of not going to work, or working and not getting paid, due to a manufactured crisis that was completely avoidable.”
“Thankfully, the harmful amendments were stripped, but the bill still allocates over $362 million to imprison thousands of mothers and children fleeing domestic abuse and lethal violence in Central America,” complained Joanne Lin, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. “This is a very troubling development. Mandatory detention of people awaiting their immigration proceedings violates the right to due process and is inefficient and costly. Instead of funding immigration detention, Congress should appropriate money for community-based alternatives to detention with case management services, which have been proven to be effective and cost-efficient.”
This week, the House Judiciary Committee is expected to consider four bills to strengthen the enforcement and integrity of immigration laws. The Michael Davis, Jr. in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act (HR 1148), authored by Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), would remove the President’s ability to unilaterally shut down the enforcement of immigration laws and defund Obama’s unconstitutional executive actions on immigration.