Senate Poised to Strip Defunding Language from DHS Appropriations Bill
In an about-face this afternoon, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell struck a deal to debate the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations bill (H.R. 240). For weeks Senate Democrats have been blocking a motion to even start debate on the bill under objections that it defunds President Obama’s executive amnesty.
However, today’s deal appears to change all that. Minority Leader Harry Reid agreed to throw Democratic support behind a motion to begin debate, and in return, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to offer one amendment – a substitute that replaces the entire bill – that strips the defunding language from the appropriations bill!!! In fact, under the agreement, the amendment Senator McConnell will offer is a DHS appropriations bill authored by Democratic Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). Naturally, the Democratic language does not have language that defunds the executive amnesty.
Shortly after Reid and McConnell struck the deal, McConnell went to the Senate floor and offered the motion to proceed. There was little debate and the motion PASSED by a vote of 98-2.
Next, the Senate will debate the Mikulski-Shaheen substitute amendment to H.R. 240 to replace the House language, thereby stripping the defunding language from the bill. FAIR has sent out an alert to its members and activists to urge their Senators to vote against the Mikulski-Shaheen substitute amendment. It is uncertain at this time when a vote on this amendment will take place. If the Senate adheres to standard procedure regarding the number of hours that must be spent on debate, a final vote on this bill (with or without the Mikulski-Shaheen substitute amendment) may not take place until this weekend. That would mean that Congress will either have to approve a short-term funding bill keeping spending levels in place (known as a “continuing resolution” or CR) or let funding for DHS lapse.
Meanwhile, in addition to debating the DHS appropriations bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will offer Senators an opportunity to vote on a stand-alone bill that defunds President Obama’s executive amnesty. This bill will be S. 534, authored by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). (FAIR’s summary of this bill can be read here.) The Collins bill is narrower than the House defunding language. Unlike the House bill, the Collins bill does not defund the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) or the 2011 Morton Memos.
But even though the Collins bill is weaker than the House defunding language, it may still be difficult to get Democratic Senators to vote to begin debate the bill—a cloture vote that requires 60 Senators. At this point, only one Democratic Senator, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has publicly promised to support this stand-alone defunding bill. Moreover, speaking to reporters Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid indicated that he will only agree to a debate on the President’s executive amnesty after funding for DHS is enacted. Thus, it is uncertain when the vote on the Collins bill will take place.
Stay tuned to FAIR for more details as debate in the Senate moves forward…