House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Sunday that he's intent on following "regular order" in Congress to consider a Department of Homeland Security spending bill, which many Republicans are hoping can be used to defund President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration.
But that "regular order" could end making it easy to pass the DHS bill without any immigration language at all, handing Democrats a big win.
With some drama late last week, the House passed a one-week DHS spending bill and asked the Senate to go to a "conference" to sort out differences in the House and Senate DHS bills. The House bill defunds Obama's immigration plan, and the Senate bill doesn't.
Traditionally, the House and Senate meet in these conference committees when they can't agree on legislation. But Senate Democrats have said they won't agree to a conference, and are expected to vote against a conference late Monday evening.
According to Roll Call, what happens after that could give Democrats the win they want on immigration. Once the House and Senate are officially at loggerheads over the bill, any House Democrat will be able to call up the Senate bill, and the rules say that's a privileged motion that must get a vote.
At that point, if just 30 or so Republicans vote with the Democrats, the Senate version of the DHS will would pass.
On Sunday, Boehner wasn't explicit about what the next steps for the bill, but did seem to hint that the issue could return to the House in some way.
"Now they've made clear that they don't want to go to conference," Boehner said on CBS of Senate Democrats. "They're going to have a vote, and if they vote in fact not to go to conference, this bill may be coming back to the House."
As Roll Call noted, having the fight end this way would still give Boehner the ability to say he fought Obama's immigration action, but that the rules of the House favored Democrats in terms of the final result.
House Republicans do have other ways of shutting down the ability of Democrats to call up the Senate bill. But as of Monday, they hadn't moved to limit Democratic options in this regard, and it isn't clear if enough Republicans would support this plan, since it could lead to more funding delays for DHS, and possibly a partial shutdown.
Last week, rumors were flying that the one-week DHS spending bill would be followed by passage of a "clean" DHS bill that Democrats can support. Boehner rejected that idea, but might have admitted to essentially the same thing by saying he wants to lean on "regular order."
"The promise I made to Ms. Pelosi is the same promise I made to Republicans, that we would follow regular order."
H/T: Roll Call