Pressure centers on House Republicans on Homeland Security

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., accompanied by Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, right, and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., rear, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, to talk about his move to disentangle one of two contested immigration measures from the Homeland Security budget and debate the issues separately, as the Senate faces an impasse over provisions attached to the spending bill aimed at blocking President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The pressure is increasing on House Republicans after the party’s Senate leaders agreed to Democratic demands and announced legislation to fund Department of Homeland Security without contentious immigration provisions opposed by President Barack Obama.

Spending for the Homeland Security Department expires Friday at midnight and if Congress doesn’t act before then, the agency responsible for overseeing the country’s borders will be partially shut down.

With the Senate decision, the question of whether to fund the department is in the hands of House Republicans who must now decide whether to risk a partial shutdown in order to take a stance on Obama’s immigration policies.

House Republicans scheduled a closed-door caucus meeting for Wednesday morning, their first since returning from a weeklong congressional recess.

Several Republican lawmakers insisted they could not accept the two-part strategy proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: a vote on legislation to fund the Homeland Security Department, and a separate vote to overturn Obama’s recent executive actions sparing millions of immigrants in the U.S. illegally from deportation.

The approach “is tantamount to surrender,” said Republican Rep. Matt Salmon. “I will fight against any funding bill that does not fully defund the president’s illegal actions.”

Yet with the partial shutdown looming, options were few for Republicans who won full control of Congress in November’s elections.

They could allow the agency’s funding to expire, violating their leaders’ promises that there would be no more shutdowns on the Republicans’ watch. They could try to pass a short-term extension of current funding levels, postponing the conflict to another day. Or they could go along with McConnell’s strategy of funding the agency fully while registering their disapproval of Obama’s immigration policies with a separate vote.

Some Senate Republicans, eager to move beyond fighting over immigration while courting a shutdown of an agency whose mission includes battling terrorism, expressed support for McConnell’s proposal.

McConnell’s concession came as Senate Democrats repeatedly raised the issue of terrorism against the Republicans, suggesting a partial shutdown would put the U.S. at risk at a dangerous time.

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Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor, Charles Babington, Alan Fram and Steven Ohlemacher contributed to this report.

 

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