DHS funding stalemate means shutdown likely

Willie Grace | 2/23/2015, 2:10 p.m. | Updated on 2/23/2015, 2:10 p.m.
Congress returns on Monday with just four days before the deadline to pass legislation to keep DHS open. A stalemate ...
Sign and gate at the exterior of the US Department of Homeland Security.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is known as the deal-maker on Capitol Hill, but the current logjam over funding the Department of Homeland Security has everyone wondering if he can prevent a shutdown.

Congress returns on Monday with just four days before the deadline to pass legislation to keep DHS open. A stalemate between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill over President Barack Obama's execution actions on immigration has stalled a funding bill for the agency.

Without any serious negotiations or talk of a compromise, it's likely DHS will run out of money at midnight on Friday and the blame game will begin.

Both sides agree Homeland Security shouldn't be interrupted, but the GOP GOP-controlled House passed a measure that funded he agency but also blocked the administration's immigration policies -- something Senate Democrats won't support.

Congressional Republicans are trying to keep the focus on a key group of six to eight Senate Democrats who criticized the President's move last November to approve policies to allow 5 million undocumented immigrants to avoid deportations. On Friday, the White House spokesman pointed the finger squarely at the GOP.

"The President believes that the Congress, particularly Republicans in Congress, who now have the majority in both the House and the Senate, should fulfill their responsibility to ensure that the Department of Homeland Security doesn't shut down at the end of this month," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

Congress has faced showdowns before -- on government funding, on raising the nation's debt limit. The difference now is that nobody is talking; there is no evidence of any back channel negotiations or efforts to float a compromise that might give each side some kind of face saving measure to avoid a shutdown.

McConnell will try a fourth time to start debate on the House bill on Monday, but the vote is expected to fail. The Kentucky GOP leader, who has earned a reputation as a savvy legislator, hasn't signaled whether he has a new strategy up his sleeve.

The spotlight next week will remain on McConnell, who vowed when Republicans took control in 2015 there would be no more government shutdowns. But he's kept mum on how he'll keep that promise.

Last week, a Texas federal judge temporarily suspended the President's immigration actions, a development some thought could provide an escape hatch for Republicans. With the court stopping the program from moving forward some thought the GOP might be more willing to approve the DHS funding as the legal battle played out in the courts.

But the court's decision appears to have hardened the posture of conservative Republicans, who argue the court backed up their view that the President's actions were unconstitutional.

"Why in the world would we move from that position?" Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan asked CNN in a phone interview.

Jordan heads a new group of House conservatives called the "House Freedom Caucus." The roughly 35 members of that group held a conference call during last week's recess and Jordan reported the group was united in "standing firm."