House Speaker John Boehner says Senate Democrats should "get off their ass" and pass a bill to fund the Homeland Security Department. He also said the president's request for military force against IS would likely face changes before a vote. (Feb. 11)
WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner challenged Senate Democrats Wednesday to "get off their ass" and pass a bill to fund the Homeland Security Department and restrict President Barack Obama's executive moves on immigration.
His comments seemed unlikely to change Senate Democrats' behavior. But they underscored a worsening stalemate on Capitol Hill with funding for the Homeland Security Department set to expire Feb. 27. A day earlier, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared the Senate "stuck" on the issue and said the next move was in the House's court.
Boehner rejected that, insisting the House has already done its job. He said Senate Democrats are at fault for blocking a House-passed bill that funds the department through the remainder of the budget year while also overturning Obama's policies limiting deportations for millions here illegally. Democrats oppose the immigration language.
"The House has done its job, why don't you go ask the Senate Democrats when they're going to get off their ass and do something other than to vote no?" Boehner told reporters after meeting with GOP lawmakers. "The issue here is not Senate Republicans. The issue here is Senate Democrats."
In response, a spokesman for Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid chided Boehner that "cursing is not going to resolve the squabbling among Republicans that led to this impasse."
"Democrats have been clear from day one about the way out of this mess: take up the clean Homeland Security funding bill which Republicans signed off on in December — and which is ready to come to the Senate floor — pass it, and move on," said Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson.
It's not clear how the impasse will be resolved since Republican leaders in both chambers insist they have no plans for further action. But not all GOP lawmakers are comfortable with that strategy.
Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., said Wednesday that the Senate should take up a "clean" homeland security spending bill, free of the contested immigration language.
"I would think we ought to strip the bill of extraneous issues ... and make it just about homeland security," said Kirk, who is up for re-election in 2016 in a Democratic-leaning state with a large Latino population. He said Americans are concerned about security, especially after the recent terror attacks in Paris, and so "the way to go forward is just fund DHS."
The likeliest outcome may be a short-term extension of current funding levels for the Homeland Security Department, something agency leaders say would jeopardize their ability to make needed changes at the Secret Service, Border Patrol and other agencies.
The issue has emerged with Republicans in their second month of full congressional control after four years of holding the majority in the House but not the Senate. House Republicans have been frustrated to discover that because of Senate rules giving significant rights to the minority party, not much has changed and they still can't get their bills through the Senate.