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House Says, Senate Says: GOP Split on Next DHS Move (Updated)

McCarthy said it's up to the Senate. Cornyn suggests it's up to the House. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
McCarthy said it's up to the Senate. Cornyn suggests it's up to the House. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:28 p.m. | 
When it comes to Department of Homeland Security funding, the ball is still in the Senate’s court, according to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.  

“A hundred senators got elected to say they wanted to solve problems,” McCarthy told a small group of reporters Tuesday morning. “They didn’t get elected to say, ‘we’ll wait and see what the House does.’ They should show us where they stand.” McCarthy blamed Senate Democrats for filibustering — three times — consideration of the House-passed DHS spending bill because of objections to language that blocks President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration.  

The California Republican suggested that Democrats, not House Republicans, would be responsible if lawmakers are unable to overcome the current impasse and the critical agency shuts down at the end of the month.  

“If they’re opposed to the current bill, then vote to bring it up,” McCarthy said. “You got a new Senate where amendments are being able to be offered. Offer an amendment, pass a bill. Just like anything else: The House passes a bill, the Senate passes a bill, we go to conference and we can get this done. That’s why we took the bill up so early and sent it to the Senate, so they’d have plenty of opportunity.”  

But in a separate interview with reporters later in the morning Tuesday, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, saw things differently.  

“We’ve tried three times,” Cornyn said, “so I guess we could try it more times in the Senate, but I suspect the outcome would be the same.”  

Cornyn hinted that it was the House’s turn to try a new gambit: “It seems to me that … by [trying to pass] it more and more, it won’t necessarily strengthen the speaker’s hand … so I think that’s probably the venue.”  

“It’s clear we can’t get on the bill, we can’t offer amendments on the bill, and I think it’s pretty safe to say we’re stuck because of Democratic obstruction on the Senate side,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.,  said later in the day. “I think it’s clear we can’t go forward in the Senate, unless you all have heard something I haven’t, and so the next move obviously is up to the House.”  

With both chambers due for recess next week, there are just a handful of legislative days left to figure out how to avoid a shutdown of the agency on Feb. 27. Lawmakers have been wary of admitting that another short-term continuing resolution for DHS could be necessary if an agreement isn’t reached before that time.  

Cornyn told reporters there would be a solution.  

“It will all work out, I promise you,” he said, adding that whether to have yet another vote on limiting debate on taking up the House bill would likely be discussed at Tuesday’s Senate Republican Conference lunch.  

McCarthy was less reassuring.  

“Why do we have to?” McCarthy said in response to the question of whether the House should prepare to pass a stopgap spending bill. “We passed it early.”  

If Senate Democrats wouldn’t budge, he added, “they can pass something else.”  

A senior Senate Democrat, Charles E. Schumer of New York, said that GOP lawmakers were already beginning to talk about a short-term DHS spending bill, “now that they’re getting the message that the House bill will not pass,” but blasted the idea as one that would “guarantee another cliff and more brinksmanship and underfunded DHS in meantime.”  

Meanwhile, Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, echoed McCarthy’s sentiments.  

“The House has passed a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security, and block the President’s unilateral executive action on immigration,” he said in a statement to CQ Roll Call. “Now, the pressure is on Senate Democrats who claim to oppose the President’s action, but are filibustering a bill to stop it.”  

Tamar Hallerman contributed to this report.

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