WASHINGTON - Congress will return to work Monday with only four days left to pass a Department of Homeland Security funding bill and avert a partial agency shutdown and the furlough of about 30,000 federal employees.
Most of the department’s employees would be deemed “essential” and kept working even if Congress and President Obama don’t agree in time. The nation’s airports, borders and political leaders would continue to be protected during a partial shutdown.
But even those who work would be unsure of their paychecks until Congress finds a way to fund the agency beyond Friday, when it runs out of money.
The operative word on Capitol Hill is “stuck.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been unable to move a bill that would provide the department with $40 billion through September, because of a Democratic filibuster over added language that would reverse some of Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
House Speaker John Boehner isn’t budging on his demand that the Senate act on the bill passed by the House and not look to his chamber for help. “The House has done its job under the Constitution,” Boehner said. “It’s time for the Senate to do their job.”
Democrats and a few Republicans in both chambers are pressing for a “clean” bill, without the immigration-related amendments, arguing that not funding the department when ISIL and other groups are committing terrorist acts worldwide would be political suicide.
The White House will try to keep the heat on Congress when Obama hosts a nationally televised town hall meeting on immigration Wednesday in Miami.
Even though Senate Democrats are blocking the bill, most Americans would blame Republicans if there’s a partial shutdown, according to a CNN/ORC poll released this week.
Fifty-three percent of poll respondents would blame congressional Republicans for a Homeland Security closing, while 30 percent would blame Obama, the survey found. Only 13 percent of those surveyed blamed both congressional Republicans and the White House.
Some lawmakers, such as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., think a federal judge in Texas threw Congress a lifeline last week when he issued an injunction blocking Obama’s actions to shield from deportation more than 4 million immigrants who live in the United States illegally. “It’s not a good idea … to shut down the Department of Homeland Security,” McCain said Thursday on MSNBC. “And now we’ve got a perfect reason to not shut it down because the courts have decided, at least initially, in our favor.”