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As consequences of Homeland Security shutdown become clearer, Congress looks to deal

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he will offer up a Homeland Security funding bill alongside, but separate from, a measure to defund Obama’s executive actions.
REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
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They followed Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who took to the floor Monday and pointedly called on Republicans to drop their immigration concerns and fund the department.

“Rather than acting to protect my state from the threat, there are people who are actively contemplating a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security — the Department we created after 9/11 to protect our homeland, to protect our country from these kinds of terrorist threats,” Klobuchar said. “The people in my state are standing tall when it comes to this threat, and our law enforcement is standing tall when it comes to this threat, but in Congress our message to these terrorists cannot be that we are going to shut down the Department of Homeland Security. That cannot be the message coming from the Senate of the United States of America.”

On Tuesday, Johnson wouldn’t expand on his weekend statement that shoppers be “particularly careful” going to the Mall of America (Officials later clarified to say there was no specific threat to the mall, despite the video). On the broader matter of an expanded terror threat without DHS funding, Johnson said that an “independent actor could strike any community with little or not notice to our intelligence community,” making the department’s coordination with local officials all the more important.

McConnell charts a path forward

Congress usually — eventually — finds its way out of its (self-inflicted) budget quandaries, and there’s already an effort underway to do that this week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he will offer up a Homeland Security funding bill alongside, but separate from, a measure to defund Obama’s executive actions. The plan would mean Congress could pass Homeland Security’s funding to avoid a shutdown, then fight over the immigration actions separately. It also means Democrats could still oppose Republicans’ immigration measures — and Obama could veto them — without threating Homeland Security funding, preserving the status quo over Republican objections.

The House would then have to take up a “clean” funding bill, something that could enrage conservatives deeply opposed to the executive actions. But House Speaker John Boehner has a history of cutting budget deals without buy-in from his right flank. A spokesman for Boehner put out a statement Monday that didn’t endorse or indict McConnell’s plan, saying instead that it would force Democrats to go on the record for or against the executive actions without Homeland Security funding on the line. In the past, Boehner had said that the House has ruled on the question of immigration and Homeland Security by passing its bill to fund the department while gutting Obama’s immigration executive actions, and the problem was now the Senate’s.

Despite weeks worth of finger pointing between the House and Senate, Johnson said he’s optimistic lawmakers will find a way to cut a deal before the shutdown clock hits zero.

“Almost everybody agrees that the Department of Homeland Security should be funded, one way or another,” he said. “We’ve heard from various members of congressional leadership that we are not going to let a shutdown happen. That’s what I continue to hear.”

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