House Republicans late Thursday set in motion a plan to extend funding for the Department of Homeland Security for three weeks — Democrats oppose the plan, and as a result, it could lead to a partial DHS shutdown after Friday.
GOP members met at the House Rules Committee late Thursday night to prepare legislation in the form of a one-page document that says DHS funding would be extended until March 19.
After a lengthy debate, the committee approved a rule that will let House members debate the three-week extension for an hour on Friday, and then pass it.
House Democrats railed against the plan at the committee, but were powerless to stop it. The GOP-led House is expected to pass the extension Friday, although some Republicans will likely vote against it along the way.
But passage doesn't necessarily keep DHS funded after Friday. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has warned repeatedly that House Republicans have to pass a clean, full-year spending bill, and if they don't, Senate Democrats won't agree to consider anything else.
If that's true, DHS is headed toward a partial shutdown, since House Republicans now seem intent on passing their three-week extension only.
Both chambers are due to return early Friday morning, and pass their respective bills. Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said he believes the House will be done for the day after the vote, and will head home for the weekend.
That would leave the Senate with the choice of either going home as well, or staying to try to pass the House's extension.
As tough as Reid has sounded, it's possible Democrats may feel compelled to accept the three-week extension.
Caught in the middle of the fight is DHS itself, which wrote to the House on Thursday to warn that a short-term extension of funding only creates more uncertainty for DHS workers. He's at least in good company — after a week of back and forth on DHS funding, it's still unclear how it'll end on Friday.