House Passes No-Strings-Attached Bill To Fund Homeland Security

Mar 3, 2015
Originally published on March 3, 2015 6:25 pm

An effort by some congressional Republicans to block President Obama's executive actions on immigration by tying it to a Homeland Security spending bill officially failed on Tuesday. House Speaker John Boehner yet again bucked the most conservative wing of his party and brought a "clean" funding bill to the floor. It passed easily, thanks to unanimous backing by Democrats.

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A bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security through the end of September is now heading to President Obama's desk for a signature. The House passed the measure without any strings attached; this after conservative Republicans tried for a month-and-a-half to use DHS funding as leverage against the president's executive action on immigration. With us now to talk about House Speaker John Boehner and how he brought that battle to a close today is NPR's congressional correspondent Ailsa Chang. And, Ailsa, Speaker Boehner had promised House Republicans that he was going to fight the president's executive action on immigration tooth and nail. So how did he explain to his caucus why he was letting this funding bill go through?

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: Well, basically Boehner said he had no choice. He had met with his caucus this morning behind closed doors, and he just laid it all out. Their only options were a DHS shutdown to pass another really short-term funding bill or to pass the clean bill the Senate had already passed. This was all confirmed by someone in the room at the time. The first two options weren't viable. So Boehner just bit the bullet, and, frankly, he picked a politically convenient day to do all of this. This is the same day Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel spoke to a joint meeting of Congress. And Boehner was already enjoying some of the glow from that. He was the one, if you'll remember, who had invited Netanyahu without consulting the White House first. And members of his caucus had praised him for challenging the president like that.

BLOCK: Well, this can't endear him to that flank of conservative Republicans who thought that this was the best way to take on this immigration battle, to use DHS funding to stop it.

CHANG: That's right, but, you know, to be honest, talking to them today, this was what most of them expected anyway from the very beginning. But they wanted to fight the fight anyway. So was there any point to any of this? Here's what Republican Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina had to say.


CONGRESSMAN MICK MULVANEY: The only thing we accomplished was not participating in the ruse. You know, if you didn't vote for the cromnibus - and many of us did not vote for cromnibus because we expected this as exactly where we would be. There's nothing to be gained here. This is an unmitigated loss for conservatives.

CHANG: That cromnibus, if you'll recall, was the spending package Congress had passed last December that funded the entire government through September except for DHS. DHS was only to be funded through February. And that was House leadership's idea. They promised their caucus that that was a way to have their immigration fight in February. But, of course, as we saw, that fight didn't get much done in the end.

BLOCK: Yeah, so that unmitigated loss that we just heard about, how does that affect the relationship with House Republicans and John Boehner going forward?

CHANG: Well, it certainly exacerbates tensions, and conservative Republicans say they will definitely judge Boehner more by his actions now rather than by his promises. But they've always said that. And, frankly, Boehner is in a really familiar position. He's already built a track record of having to rely on Democrats to get bills passed to avert crises that many of his hard-line members are willing to generate. So this is just business as usual for Boehner. Nothing's really changed.

BLOCK: OK. Ailsa, thanks so much.

CHANG: You're welcome.

BLOCK: That's NPR's congressional correspondent Ailsa Chang. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.