Tue, Feb 17, 2015 - Page 7 News List

Homeland Security cutoff looms

DISPUTE:The US House of Representatives, with a Republican Party majority, has initiated spending cuts to revoke provisions of the president’s immigration policy

NY Times News Service, WASHINGTON

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, foreground right, speaks during a news conference on the steps of the US Capitol in Washington on Friday last week.

Photo: AFP

US House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said on Sunday that he was “certainly” prepared to allow funding for the Department of Homeland Security to lapse, raising the possibility that one of the largest and most important US government agencies could be shut down at the end of the month.

Coming just two months after the Republican Party gained full control of the US Congress, a shutdown would be a major political problem as the party tries to honor a vow to govern responsibly and cooperatively.

It would contradict a pledge from US Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell who said the day after his party won decisively at the polls in November last year: “There will be no government shutdowns.”

It would also exacerbate a rift that has been growing between Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

“The House [of Representatives] has done its job; we’ve spoken,” Boehner said on Fox News Sunday “If the Senate doesn’t like it, they’ll have to produce something that fits their institution.”

Pressed on whether he would, in effect, allow the department to shut down if the Senate does not come up with a funding bill of its own, Boehner said: “Certainly. The house has acted.”

In dispute is how to handle the issue of immigration. Backed by Republicans, the House of Representatives last month passed a spending plan for the 240,000-employee Department of Homeland Security that included provisions to gut US President Barack Obama’s immigration policy.

The bill would revoke legal protections for millions of unauthorized immigrants, including children, and put them at risk of deportation.

However, the measure stands no chance of becoming law. Democrat senators have filibustered it; Obama has said he would veto it; and even some Republican senators have questioned the wisdom of the House of Representatives’ unyielding position, raising doubts that the bill would get even 51 Republican votes in the Senate.

US House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Sunday that all of her caucus would vote for a “clean” Homeland Security bill — one that contains no immigration-related amendments — and she urged the speaker to bring such a measure to a vote.

“Speaker Boehner made it clear that he has no plan to avoid a government shutdown that would threaten the safety of the American people,” she said, calling his remarks “a sad reflection of the fact that the Tea Party continues to hold the gavel as they insist on their futile anti-immigrant grandstanding.”

Lawmakers are gone from Washington until next week, meaning that they have just four days in the Capitol in which to reach a deal before the department’s funding runs out on Friday next week.

Boehner also spoke on Sunday about another issue that has become a distraction: his invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before a joint meeting of Congress. The offer has prompted outrage in Israel and the US from critics who say that both leaders are using the speech for political gain.

Boehner said that he did not consult with the White House because he wanted to make sure it did not interfere.

“I wanted to make sure that there was no interference,” he said. “There’s no secret here in Washington about the animosity that this White House has for Prime Minister Netanyahu. And I frankly didn’t want them getting in the way and quashing what I thought was a real opportunity.”

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