WASHINGTON -- Almost as quickly as it came about, a plan from Senate Republican leaders to avert a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security has hit a snag.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Tuesday the chamber would move on a full-year DHS funding bill without measures to restrict President Barack Obama's immigration policies, which have so far hindered the passage of a bill that would keep the department from shutting down on Feb. 27. The Senate will also vote on a separate bill to stop Obama's 2014 executive actions on immigration.
But the plan was quickly questioned by Democratic leaders, who said they don't want to move forward on even a clean DHS funding bill unless there are assurances from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) that he's on board.
"We have to make sure that we get a bill to the president, not that we send a hot potato to Boehner," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said at a press conference.
Time is running out to fund DHS before the deadline, and McConnell's offer was the first Plan B from Republicans after a House-passed bill was repeatedly blocked in the Senate. The House's bill would prevent Obama from carrying out a number of his immigration policies as part of funding for DHS, something the president said he would veto. Now McConnell is aiming to split DHS funding from the immigration issue.
McConnell said there was no reason for Democrats to not go along with the plan for votes on a clean DHS bill and one to end Obama's 2014 immigration actions. The plan has the added benefit, for Republicans, of singling out Democrats who were critical of Obama's 2014 immigration actions, which could expand deportation relief to as many as 5 million people.
"I don't know what's not to like about this," McConnell said at a separate press conference. "This is an approach that respects both points of view and gives senators an opportunity to go on record on both funding the Department of Homeland Security and expressing their opposition to what the president did last November."
He told reporters he did not know what the House would do. House Republicans will meet on Wednesday morning to discuss plans.
"The Speaker has been clear: the House has acted, and now Senate Democrats need to stop hiding. Will they continue to block funding for the Department of Homeland Security or not?" Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in an emailed statement after McConnell's announcement.
The deportation relief Republicans aim to prevent would apply to parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents under the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program, or DAPA. It would also expand the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which allows undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children temporary authorization to stay and work. The 2012 iteration of that program would remain intact under McConnell's legislation, but it would not be expanded to include more undocumented immigrants.
Some Republicans indicated they may be willing to support a clean funding bill for DHS since programs are not currently moving forward.
"That's a victory to me, not a loss, and sometimes it makes a lot of sense to bank victories and move ahead," Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told reporters.
UPDATE: 7:40 p.m. -- Conservative Republicans did not greet McConnell's plan with enthusiasm. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) issued a statement saying that he "will fight against any funding bill that does not fully defund the President's illegal actions."
"The Senate Majority Leader’s plan to divorce the funding bill from the unlawful actions it is restricting is tantamount to surrender, and won’t meet with support in the People’s House," Salmon said.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has helped spearhead the revolt against Obama's executive actions in the Senate, released a statement saying that he does not support McConnell's strategy. His office did not respond to a request for comment on whether he would try to block a clean DHS funding bill.
"Leadership's current plan -- to pass clean DHS funding and separate legislation barring executive amnesty -- is a mistake," Cruz said. "Congress is obliged to use every constitutional check and balance we have to rein in President Obama's lawlessness, and that includes both our confirmation authority over nominees and the power of the purse."