January 13, 2015 / 3:21 PM / in 3 years

Senate Republicans cautious on US security bill, immigration fight

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Republicans on Tuesday said it was unclear if they could pass a Department of Homeland Security funding bill that blocks President Barack Obama’s immigration initiatives, raising an early stumbling block for the new Republican Congress.

Speaker of the House John Boehner wields the gavel for the first time after being re-elected as the Speaker of the House of Representatives at the start of the 114th Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 6, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Senate Republicans acknowledged that the measure, expected to win approval in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, may not get the 60 Senate votes needed to clear procedural hurdles erected by Democrats.

Republicans have a 54-46 Senate majority and would need to persuade some Democrats to vote against Obama’s executive action to lift the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants. The House measure is expected to ban money from being used to implement the order.

“If we can’t pass the House bill we’d have to come up with an idea of what could pass the Senate,” said John Cornyn of Texas, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican.

Republicans can expect no support from Democrats on the issue, a Senate Democratic leadership aide said on Tuesday. The White House has said it would veto a DHS funding bill with immigration restrictions.

Several Senate Republicans said they were wary of risking an interruption in Homeland Security’s $39.7 billion annual budget following the deadly attacks in Paris.

Funding for the sprawling agency that secures U.S. borders, airports and coastal waters will be cut off on Feb. 27 if Congress and the White House cannot agree on a plan.

“I know there’s a lot of consensus on our side that the last thing we need to do is to do something to jeopardize the security of our own citizens,” said Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee.

House Speaker John Boehner said the Republican-dominated House will fully fund the department while blocking funds to carry out Obama’s immigration actions, which he says are illegal.

“Our goal here is to fund the Department of Homeland Security. And our second goal is to stop the president’s executive overreach,” Boehner told reporters.

Boehner, however, declined to say whether he would bring a “clean” DHS funding bill to the floor if the newly Republican-controlled Senate fails to pass the House measure or if Obama vetoes it over immigration-related provisions.

Republicans also plan an amendment aimed at reversing Obama’s 2012 initiative deferring action against immigrants brought into the United States illegally as children. If passed, it could put hundreds of thousands of people at risk of deportation.

Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan; Editing by Susan Heavey, John Whitesides and Gunna Dickson

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