WASHINGTON (CBS News/CBSDC/AP) — House Republicans sounded a retreat from a battle that could partially shut down the Homeland Security Department, agreeing to push short-term funding for the agency while leaving in place Obama administration immigration policies they have vowed to repeal.
Spending for the department, which oversees the nation’s borders, expires Friday at midnight, and was being held hostage in a proxy battle over President Barack Obama’s recent executive actions that spared millions of immigrants in this country illegally from deportation.
Republicans said legislation to provide funding for Homeland Security for three weeks would be put to a vote in the House on Friday. Senate Democratic officials indicated they would agree to it, and predicted Obama would sign the measure, averting a partial shutdown of an agency with major anti-terrorism responsibilities.
Outlining a second step in their revised strategy, Rep. Dennis Ross said House Republicans would also seek negotiations with the Senate on a bill to fund the agency until the end of the budget year on Sept. 30 while also rolling back the president’s immigration directives.
The proposal under consideration by House Republicans marked a retreat from their longstanding insistence that no money be approved for Homeland Security as long as Obama’s immigration directives remained in place.
Whatever the eventual outcome, it appeared the president was closing in on a triumph in his latest showdown with the Republican-controlled Congress.
In a news conference Thursday morning, the top Democrats in the House and Senate, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, indicated they would resist any attempts by the House to reattach the immigration provisions once they were stripped out.
“It’s a waste of time,” Reid said. “If they send over a bill with all the riders in it, they’ve shut down the government. We are not going to play games.”
House Speaker John Boehner is “pretty adamant that he’s not going to shut down Homeland Security, especially in light of the Mall of America and in light of what’s happened in New York,” said Ross, emerging from a closed-door strategy session with the Republican rank-and-file.
He referred to a suggestion made by one terrorist group that a sympathizer should attack the Mall of America, an enormous shopping facility in Minnesota, as well as the arrests Wednesday in Brooklyn of men charged with plotting to help Islamic State fighters.
If Congress doesn’t act before the deadline to fund Homeland Security for another year, the shutdown would mean almost 90 percent of the department’s workers who are considered essential would have to work without pay until the situation was resolved. The showdown would therefore be unlikely to have an immediate impact on U.S. security beyond worsening morale.
With directives issued in 2012 and earlier this year, Obama largely eliminated the threat of deportation for more than 4 million immigrants who entered the country illegally, including some brought to the United States as youngsters by their parents.
House Republicans last month tied funding for the Department of Homeland Security to reversal of both of the president’s policy directives.
Under their revised plan, one official said they would agree to leave in place the president’s 2012 move to shield immigrants brought to the country as youngsters. Instead, they would seek repeal of an administration order from last fall that related to the broader immigrant population.
Republicans say the president is acting unconstitutionally, and a federal judge in Texas recently issued an order that temporarily blocked the administration from carrying out Obama’s 2014 policy.
The White House has appealed that ruling.
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