February 27, 2015 / 5:59 PM / 5 years ago

House rejects stopgap security agency funding, partial shutdown looms

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives on Friday failed to approve a stopgap funding bill for the U.S. domestic security agency in an embarrassing setback for Republican House Speaker John Boehner, increasing the threat of a partial agency shutdown at midnight.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) (2nd R) returns to his office after a visit to the House floor for procedural votes for legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security at the Capitol in Washington, February 27, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

With just hours left before spending authority expires for the Department of Homeland Security, a three-week spending bill was rejected in the House by a 224-203 vote that left lawmakers few options ahead of the deadline.

The vote sent lawmakers scrambling to determine their next steps in a political battle that was originally triggered by Republican efforts to block funding for Democratic President Barack Obama’s executive orders last November on immigration by attaching provisions to the department’s spending bill.

Boehner, who has struggled to control conservatives in his party who considered any compromise on immigration a surrender to Obama, left the House chamber and refused to comment before the final vote was announced.

If current DHS funding is not extended by Friday at midnight, spending authority will be cut off for the agency that secures U.S. borders, airports and coastal waters. The agency would be 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 stay on the job, but would not be paid until new funding is approved.

Created after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the department is a super-agency that encompasses the Coast Guard, the Secret Service, the Transportation Security Administration and immigration, customs and emergency management authorities.

Fifty-two Republicans voted against the three-week extension that excluded the immigration funding restrictions. Many conservative Republicans had demanded that any spending bill include those provisions.

“We have some disagreements on tactics among conservatives,” said Representative John Fleming of Louisiana, a Tea Party favorite who voted against the stopgap.

Fleming 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.”

All but 12 of the House Democrats who voted on the stopgap measure opposed it, arguing the funding should be extended for the full fiscal year. The Senate on Friday approved a full-year, $39.7-billion funding measure for Homeland Security, which also excluded the restrictions on Obama’s immigration order.

“The Republican Congress has shown that it simply cannot govern,” Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said after the vote.

Last November, the president issued orders, without going through Congress, that lifted the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented residents. A federal judge put a temporary hold on the orders.

It was unclear if Boehner could take up the Senate bill. If he did, he would risk angering House conservatives.

Obama and Homeland Security officials have warned that even a short, partial shutdown could hurt the agency, interrupt hiring and create more uncertainty for a department that spearheads domestic counter terrorism efforts.

Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Grant McCool

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