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Senate Votes on Full DHS Funding, With House Set to Punt (Updated)

Pelosi and Reid conduct a news conference Thursday in the Capitol's Senate studio to criticize Republican leaders on the hold up of the Department of Homeland Security funding bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Pelosi and Reid conduct a news conference Thursday in the Capitol's Senate studio to criticize Republican leaders on the hold up of the Department of Homeland Security funding bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 12:39 p.m. | The Senate did its best to wrap up the current year’s funding debate, even as the House is opting for another punt .  

Senate Democrats said they wouldn’t try to block the House’s punt, meaning a likely Groundhog Day version of the debate three weeks from now.  

After weeks at loggerheads, the Senate moved quickly Friday morning to pass a bill funding the Department of Homeland Security for the balance of the fiscal year. The key vote was on invoking cloture to bat back any potential filibuster of the underlying bill — a 68-31 outcome well north of the 60 needed to clear the procedural hurdle. Democrats were united in seeking the “clean” funding bill but Republicans fractured, with most voting to filibuster the plan put forward by their Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to break the impasse.  

Senate Republicans who face the voters next year in states won by President Barack Obama split on funding for the Department of Homeland Security.  

Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mark S. Kirk of Illinois and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania voted to advance the bill.  

Rob Portman of Ohio, Marco Rubio of Florida and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa voted no.  

The final vote on passage was also 68-31.  

But even as the Senate was in action, the House was going in a different direction entirely, putting on the floor a three-week continuing resolution for the Department of Homeland Security, a move that could provide time for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to act on the pending case brought by 26 states that is seeking to upend President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration.  

On the House side of the Rotunda, Appropriations ranking member Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., called the newest one-page stopgap a “staggering display of legislative incompetence.”  

But Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat, told reporters Friday that Democrats would not block the House’s three-week DHS CR, saying it is better than a shutdown.

“We want full funding. Obviously, we’re not going to shut down the government, and if that’s the only choice we’re given, as it looks like now, we’ll support it, but very reluctantly because it’s not the better choice,” he said. “The worst choice? Shut down the government. Best choice? Fully fund the department. They’re sort of in between and not giving us much choice.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., focused his remarks on a sidecar proposal from Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, that would block funding for the 2014 executive actions on immigration, separate from the DHS funding debate. Democrats successfully filibustered that bill, on a 57-42 vote, with Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., having said Thursday that Democrats would debate immigration once full funding for Homeland Security is signed into law.  

“This morning, the Senate will complete work on a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security. And then, we’ll turn to Sen. Collins’ bill. It’s commonsense legislation that would protect our democracy from the egregious example of executive overreach we saw in November. It deserves broad support,” McConnell said. The bill could be reconsidered at a future date.  

The House move, assuming the Senate joins, means that while a shutdown of Homeland Security will be averted, lawmakers, particularly Republican Senate incumbents who are vulnerable in 2016, face three more weeks of uncertainty and related political attacks. It also could hamper efforts by Senate Republican leadership to move forward with any significant legislative agenda in the meantime.  

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.

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