Following weeks of brinksmanship and political posturing, Congress is moving toward consensus on funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The agency’s funding, currently on a continuing resolution, expires at midnight on February 27.
At a DHS Strategic Industry Conversation conference in Washington on Wednesday, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said, “it's even absurd to be talking about this,” Federal News Radio reported.
After the Senate failed four times to advance House-passed legislation that faced a veto threat from President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered a proposal to split funding for the department from legislation targeting the President’s executive actions on immigration.
On Wednesday, the Senate moved forward on that plan, voting 98-2 in favor of clearing the way for a funding bill void of controversial immigration issues, FedAgent reports.
"I'd like to commend Majority Leader McConnell for ending this fatal game of chicken that otherwise left our homeland vulnerable in the back seat of the competing vehicles," stated Jon Adler, FLEOA national president. "Putting a legislative gun to the head of our homeland security and holding it hostage, is a reckless plan for addressing immigration concerns," Adler added.
Legislation passed by the Senate still faces an uncertain fate in the House, where Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will be responsible for shepherding the legislation through a chamber divided in opinions on how to best address DHS funding and the President’s executive actions on immigration.
Following the passage of the Senate bill, FLEOA’s Adler stated "Our members working for the USSS, ICE, TSA/FAMS, FLETC, FPS, CGIS, FEMA, OIG, and CBP are real people accepting real risks, and they deserve to be compensated for their steadfast commitment to homeland security," noting that mortgages and financial obligations do not cease to exist for DHS employees who may be furloughed or asked to work without pay.
During his weekly press conference earlier today, House Speaker John Boehner gave no indication of a change in GOP strategy, or whether he intends to support a Senate Homeland Security bill that will likely come to the House in the near future.
"When I make decisions, I'll let you know," Boehner said.
Meanwhile, DHS Secretary Johnson is urging lawmakers to fund his department with increasing fervor. Johnson explained this morning how a shutdown would hinder the department’s work at acting in response to terrorism and natural disasters.
“This is not just inside-the-Beltway political jousting,” said Johnson, who was flanked by emergency responders from Virginia and Washington, D.C. at the event. “Every mayor, governor, police commissioner and sheriff should be concerned about a failure to fund the Department of Homeland Security.”
Boehner is now faced with two options: amend Senate legislation to include immigration language and send it back, or bring a vote to the floor in an attempt to avert a shutdown.