Boehner doesn't rule out shutdown

House Speaker John Boehner left open the possibility Thursday of a potential shutdown at the Department of Homeland Security because of a congressional impasse over immigration.

He said a shutdown "would be bad," but that Senate Democrats would be to blame if the department's $40 billion budget were to lapse in late February.

"The House has done its job. We've spoken. And now it's up to the Senate to do their job," the Ohio Republican said. "If funding for Homeland Security lapses, Washington Democrats are gonna bear the responsibility."

The House has passed a bill that funds the department through September, while also overturning President Obama's executive actions on immigration. Senate Democrats have blocked debate on the bill because they oppose the immigration provisions.

Defense nominee wins confirmation

The Senate on Thursday confirmed Ashton B. Carter to be the next defense secretary, installing a new Pentagon chief as the United States increases military action against the Islamic State.

Carter, a former deputy defense secretary who is President Obama's choice to replace Chuck Hagel, was approved by a vote of 93-5, a striking scene of accord as tensions mount over the wait to confirm Loretta E. Lynch as the next attorney general. Five Republicans opposed Carter's confirmation.

The transition to a new Pentagon chief comes as Congress considers a number of pressing defense issues, including a request by Obama that would formally authorize military action against the Islamic State.

Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., one of the five senators who voted against Carter, said, "Mine is a vote of no confidence in the national security decisions of this administration."

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a member of the armed services committee, said aside from not having served in the military, Carter was "made for this job."

GOP seeks tougher war proposal

Congressional Republicans vowed to toughen President Obama's day-old legislation to authorize military force against ISIL fighters, and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi warned, "It's going to be hard" to find common ground.

Nothing underscored the yawning divide between the two parties more than Obama's request to bar "enduring offensive combat operations" from the struggle against terrorists who have seized territory in Syria and Iraq and beheaded hostages.

House Speaker John Boehner said disapprovingly that Obama's proposal would "tie his hands even further" than current law.

But Pelosi, recalling the long, difficult war in Iraq, said the president "has to be commended" for proposing to limit his own power.

Obama is seeking a three-year authorization for the use of force against ISIL militants or any successor groups, without regard to international boundaries. His proposal would leave in place 2001 legislation approving military action against Al-Qaida following the Sept. 11 attacks.

news services