Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson claimed on Sunday that Democrats are not blocking legislation to fund his department, even though Democrats have overtly prevented the bill from moving ahead in the Senate four times over the last few weeks.
“Democrats are not blocking debate,” Johnson said on Fox News Sunday.
His comment goes against what anyone watching the Senate floor can see for themselves. On Feb. 12, Democrats objected to a request from Republicans to take up the bill, after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he would allow Democrats to offer several amendments to the bill to change parts they don’t like.
The week before that, Democrats voted against moving ahead with the bill three times.
While it’s clear that Democrats are blocking progress on the DHS bill, they’ve tried to downplay their role in the fight by saying it’s the Republicans’ fault for calling up a bill that would defund President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration. Democrats oppose that defunding language, and have argued that the GOP is putting DHS funding at risk by including that language.
“What is happening is that some in Congress want to tie defunding our executive actions to my entire homeland security budget,” Johnson said. “We should have the debate about immigration reform. But, you should not tie that to the funding for the third-largest department of our government, 240,000 people.”
This week will test the mettle of both parties, as funding for DHS expires on Friday. Republicans will be pushing Democrats to allow the current DHS bill to move ahead or risk a partial DHS shutdown, while Democrats will again push Republicans to get rid of the immigration defunding language.
The fight will start up again early Monday evening, when Republicans will again call up the bill and ask Democrats to allow the Senate to consider it and various amendments.
Last week, Republicans got a boost when a federal judge ordered an injunction against Obama’s immigration plans. That win prompted Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to say Republicans should drop the immigration language from the DHS bill, since the Obama plan Republicans are trying to block with legislation has now been blocked through a court order.
While McCain’s logic offers Republicans a possible way to retreat from the legislative fight, many Republicans may not see the court decision as one that lasts. The Department of Justice on Monday was expected to ask the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to stay the injunction and allow Obama’s immigration plan to continue.