WASHINGTON – House Speaker John Boehner said he’s prepared to let funding lapse for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and blame Democrats if the Senate fails to pass a House-backed bill for the agency.
The Senate GOP has failed three times to advance the bill, which seeks to reverse President Obama’s executive orders on immigration policy as a condition for funding the department. Democrats have blocked the measure, saying funding should not be held up over an unrelated policy dispute.
“It’s up to Senate Democrats to get their act together,” Boehner said on the “Fox News Sunday” program in an interview taped on Feb. 13.
The Homeland Security Department faces a shutdown of nonessential operations if Congress does not reach agreement before current funding ends on Feb. 27.
When asked if he was prepared to let the funding lapse, the Ohio Republican said, “Certainly. The House has acted. We’ve done our job.”
The legislation passed by the House would provide $39.7 billion to keep the department operating through September. As a condition for that funding, the House would block funding to carry out Obama’s order halting deportations for about 5 million undocumented immigrants.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a member of the Senate Democratic leadership, said the blame rests with Boehner if funding expires.
“He will be responsible for shutting down a large part of the government,” Schumer said in a statement. “The American people will perceive it that way, and his party and the country will suffer for it.”
Boehner said Republicans felt obligated to try to reverse Obama’s immigration action because the president was exceeding his legal authority, a charge Obama has denied.
“The president said 22 times that he did not have the authority to do what he eventually did,” Boehner said. “And the Congress just can’t sit by and let the president defy the Constitution and defy his own oath of office.”
Sen. John McCain. R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said his party must resolve the impasse to avoid a partial government shutdown.
“The American people didn’t give us the majority to have a fight between House and Senate Republicans,” McCain said on Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “They want things done. We cannot cut funding for the Department of Homeland Security. We need to sit down and work this thing out.”
In the Fox interview, Boehner also pushed for what he called a more “robust authorization” to combat ISIL fighters than the draft proposed by Obama. “The president is asking for less authority than he has today under previous authorizations. I don’t think that’s smart.”
Obama on Wednesday sent Congress a draft authorization to battle the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, while prohibiting U.S. troops from engaging in “enduring offensive ground combat operations.”