US Congress averts security agency shutdown with 1-week spending fix
Updated: 2015-02-28 13:36
Members of the House of Representatives depart the House floor to an outdoor exit after a failed afternoon vote on a measure to fund the Department of Homeland Security at the Capitol in Washington, February 27, 2015. The House of Representatives on Friday failed to approve a stopgap funding bill for the U.S. domestic security agency, increasing the threat of a partial agency shutdown at midnight. [Photo/Agencies]
WASHINGTON - The US House of Representatives gave final approval on Friday to a one-week stopgap spending bill for the domestic security agency, averting a partial shutdown with just hours to spare before a midnight deadline.
After a chaotic day that featured an embarrassing rebuke to Republican House Speaker John Boehner from angry conservatives, the House voted 357-60 to keep the lights on at the Department of Homeland Security for at least one more week.
The Senate had already passed the one-week extension a few hours earlier. President Barack Obama was expected to quickly sign it.
The dizzying twists and turns in the days-long political battle raised fresh questions about Boehner's ability to manage his caucus of restive conservatives and the prospects for legislative achievement in the new, Republican-run Congress.
Earlier on Friday, the House rejected a three-week funding extension for the agency when conservatives rebelled because the bill did not block Obama's executive orders on immigration. On a second try late in the evening, House Democrats provided the votes to pass a one-week extension.
Democrats said they were optimistic a bill with nearly $40 billion in department funding for the full fiscal year, already passed by the Senate, would advance in the House next week.
In urging her fellow House Democrats to support the one-week extension, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi said in a letter to members: "Your vote tonight will assure that we will vote for full funding next week."
The extension will give both chambers of Congress more time to work out their differences on funding for the super-agency that spearheads domestic counterterrorism efforts.
Boehner could risk another round of challenges from conservatives if he puts up for a House vote the Senate's "clean" funding bill without the immigration restrictions.
The political battle was triggered by House Republican efforts to use the Homeland Security spending bill to block funding for Obama's executive orders that lifted the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented residents.
If Homeland Security's funding had not been extended by midnight, spending authority would have been cut off for the agency that secures US borders, airports and coastal waters. The agency would have been forced to furlough about 30,000 employees, or about 15 percent of its workforce.
Nearly 200,000 workers, including airport and border security agents and Coast Guard personnel would have stayed on the job but would not have been paid until new funding was approved.
Created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the department encompasses the Coast Guard, the Secret Service, the Transportation Security Administration and immigration, customs and emergency management authorities.
The agency had begun tentative preparations for a shutdown before getting the late-night reprieve from the House. Obama had convened a Friday night meeting at the White House with security and budget officials to discuss the ramifications of a shutdown.
Many conservative Republicans had demanded that any spending bill include provisions to restrict funding for Obama's immigration orders.
Representative John Fleming of Louisiana, a Tea Party favorite who voted against the stopgap bill, criticized Boehner for not pushing harder to kill Obama's executive order. Asked if House leadership should change, he said: "Obviously, we're not getting good results."