By Lisa Mascaro, Los Angeles Times (TNS)
WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders took to the TV talk shows Sunday to battle widespread criticism after an internal revolt by the party’s most conservative wing nearly cut off funding for the agencies that protect the nation’s borders, ports, airports and other key areas.
But the leaders also promised to continue trying to use funding of the Department of Homeland Security to force President Barack Obama to back down on executive actions that could defer deportations of several million immigrants who are in the country illegally.
Money for the department is set to run out again Friday, a week after Congress narrowly averted a shutdown by approving a seven-day funding bill.
Republican leaders offered no certain path toward avoiding a continued standoff and a repeat of the rebuke they faced from their conservative members.
“I made it clear we were going to do everything we could to block the president’s executive overreach,” House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-OH) said on CBS’s Face the Nation. “Republicans are united in this idea that the president has far exceeded his executive authority, and we all want to do things to stop the president from this illicit activity.”
Although Obama’s plan is tied up in court, members of the Republican leadership are trying to cut funding as the best chance to stop the new program, which would allow immigrants to apply to legally work, go to school and otherwise remain in the country for the next few years.
But Boehner and his team have been unable to manage the fight within their caucus. More than 50 Republicans rejected the speaker’s proposal last week for a three-week funding bill that would have provided time for negotiations.
The disarray was a damaging political setback for the embattled speaker and his team, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana.
“Could we have done better Friday? Yes. And will we? Yes, we will,” McCarthy said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has already abandoned the strategy of linking the money bill to the immigration battle. The Senate approved a full-year Homeland Security funding bill last week with no strings attached.
But Scalise said he hoped the Senate would vote to form a conference committee with the House to work out their different approaches.
“The way Congress works is, when the House and Senate have a disagreement, you go to conference,” Scalise said. He encouraged conservative activists to “light up” the Senate switchboard to pressure senators to vote.
Democrats in the Senate are likely to filibuster that effort Monday. They are happy to have the immigration debate, but not as part of the funding bill for the department that oversees the Border Patrol, airport screenings and other crucial responsibilities.
Some Republicans and Democrats note that after the Senate approved a bipartisan immigration overhaul in 2013, the House declined to pass its own bill and conservatives resisted going to conference, contributing to the current standoff.
Boehner, who faces continued challenges to his role as leader, was asked Sunday whether he still liked his job.
“Most days,” Boehner said. “Last Friday wasn’t all that fun. … It was just messy. And I don’t like messy.”
AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan