Congress avoids Homeland Security shutdown hours before deadline


Kelby Wingert/Iowa State Daily

Rep. Steve King spoke at the 2014 Family Leadership Summit on Aug. 9 at Stephens Auditorium.

Alex Hanson

Congress narrowly avoided a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security late Friday evening, passing just a one-week extension of funding for the agency that deals with counterterrorism operations.

The deal comes after a long day of uncertainty following a vote in the House that was voted down by conservative members in the lower chamber.

The Republican-controlled House and Senate originally worked to tie funding of DHS to an amendment that would undo actions by President Obama related to immigration.

The Senate passed funding Friday morning for a full year without immigration attached to it, sending it to the House for approval. The House opted to ignore it and held a vote to pass a three-week extension to funding.

The vote came with fierce opposition from some Republican members, with more than 50 of them voting “no.” The three-week funding plan ultimately failed, 203-224, even after Republican leadership kept the vote open for almost an hour while they tried to whip up more votes.

Ames’ Congressman Steve King, an outspoken Republican critic of illegal immigration, applauded the conservative revolt, tweeting, “Defund of Obama’s lawless #Amnesty still lives. Effort 2 fund just failed in House. Thank you fellow COS Members. Still have long way 2 go.”

Uncertainty followed for several hours following the failed vote. The Senate then voted to approve funding for one week, signaling a deal had been reached from the leadership in both chambers.

“Thank you for your cooperation on the vote earlier today. Our unity was a strong statement that the Department of Homeland Security must be fully funded,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a letter to Democratic colleagues.

“We are asking you once again to help advance passage of the Senate-passed, long-term funding of DHS by voting in favor of a seven-day patch that will be on suspension in the House tonight,” Pelosi added.

The House ultimately approved funding, 357-60.

Pelosi told members that their support for the bill tonight would help them pass a full year of funding next week.

“My two guiding principles throughout this debate on Department of Homeland Security funding have been consistent,” said U.S. Rep. David Young, R-Iowa, who voted “yes” on the one-week extension.

“I want Homeland Security to remain fully open, but I cannot allow the president’s unconstitutional executive actions to move forward. The recent federal court ruling in Texas, coupled with my votes today, reaffirms and upholds both of these guiding principles,” Young added.

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, voted “no” on the Senate plan to fund Homeland Security for the entire year. The Senate also failed to move forward and begin debate Friday on the measure that was originally tied to funding, a block on President Obama’s executive action on immigration.

“I have heard from Iowans throughout the state who adamantly oppose President Obama’s executive amnesty,” Ernst said. “I agree and voted today on legislation on behalf of Iowans to override the president’s executive amnesty.” 

The House and Senate will be back in session Monday, but it is uncertain what plan the leadership has to pass funding before the new deadline is reached on March 8, or if any votes related to immigration will be tied to DHS funding.

“We must continue working toward a solution to stop this overreach by the president while also working to preserve our national security,” Ernst said, adding the one-week extension will allow Congress to reach that goal.

“This [one-week extension] allows us to work together to achieve a solution that not only keeps the Department of Homeland Security open, but one that also respects and reaffirms the balance of power designated in the Constitution,” Young said. “It is now up to all sides to work together to get the job done.”