WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders on Sunday demanded that Democrats begin negotiations on funding for the Homeland Security Department and President Barack Obama’s unilateral actions on immigration. Democrats showed no indication they were willing to talk, and some Republicans said the party should simply surrender and give the agency money without conditions.
With a partial shutdown of the department possible at week’s end, Speaker John Boehner said the House wants to enter talks with the Senate on a final bill and pointed to Monday’s scheduled Senate vote. Congress late Friday cleared a one-week extension for the department after 52 House conservatives defied their leadership and helped scuttle legislation that would have given the agency a three-week reprieve.
“We want to get a conference with the Senate. Now, they’ve made clear that they don’t want to go to conference. But they’re going to have a vote. If they vote, in fact, not to get a conference, this bill may be coming back to the House,” Boehner said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Friday’s humiliating defeat produced a backlash in the House, with some Republicans criticizing their conservative colleagues and others arguing it was time to fully fund the agency for the year and move on.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., a former chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, said Boehner needs to find a way to get a bill to the House floor without the divisive immigration provisions.
“There’s no doubt it will pass. … We cannot allow this small group to block it. Once … this comes to a vote, we get it behind us, we go forward, then we really, as Republicans, have to stand behind the speaker and make it clear we’re not going to allow this faction to be dominating and to be impeding what we’re trying to do,” King said.
A day earlier, Rep. Devin Nunes, the California Republican who heads the House Intelligence Committee, chastised “a small group of phony conservative members who have no credible policy proposals and no political strategy to stop Obama’s lawlessness” and seem to be “unaware that they can’t advance conservatism by playing fantasy football with their voting cards.”
Conservatives were angered enough by a three-week funding extension with no rollback of the directives Obama signed in November to spare millions of immigrants from deportation and by Democrats insisting on full-year funding to sink the legislation.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., agreed to a one-week extension and told her Democratic rank and file in a letter to back the seven-day patch because, “your vote will assure that we will vote for full funding next week.”
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the No. 3 House Republican said Sunday there was no such deal.
But privately, a senior Democratic congressional aide said Boehner spoke to Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and committed to bringing up a bill without conditions. The person spoke anonymously to relate a private conversation.
Boehner on Sunday acknowledged that Friday “wasn’t all that fun,” but called the House a “rambunctious place.”
“We have 435 members. A lot of members have a lot of different ideas about what we should and shouldn’t be doing,” Boehner said.
Scalise defended Boehner’s actions as speaker.
“He’s working hard to get our agenda moved through the House and we’ve already seen some good action,” Scalise said.
A spokesman for Reid said Sunday there will be no negotiations with the House over Homeland Security funding and immigration. Senate Democrats are expected to block any plans for formal talks in Monday night’s vote.
“Sen. Reid has been clear for days on the fact that there will be no conference,” said Adam Jentleson, Reid’s spokesman. “House Republicans want a conference for counterproductive reasons: They want to take a clean bill that can pass Congress and be signed into law and turn it into something that can’t pass by loading it back up with poison pill riders.”
A so-called clean bill, in this instance, is one that focuses solely on the funding and does not include the immigration provisions.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she doesn’t envision Senate Democrats budging.
“We want a clean bill. We have passed, taken votes on a clean bill. It’s well known,” Feinstein said. “And, I see nothing else happening, other than a clean bill.”
Scalise was on “Fox News Sunday,” King spoke on ABC’s “This Week” and Feinstein made her comments on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
KIMBERLY HEFLING, Associated Press
Associated Press writers Donna Cassata and Erica Werner contributed to this report.