All eyes on House as DHS shutdown looms

Willie Grace | 2/27/2015, 4:08 p.m.
Boehner is having trouble getting enough votes to pass a three week extension for funding of the Department of Homeland ...
Speaker Boehner Press Conference

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Speaker John Boehner has been here before -- wedged between his hard-right flank and the Senate.

Boehner is having trouble getting enough votes to pass a three week extension for funding of the Department of Homeland Security, and has put the House is in recess on Friday afternoon.

GOP leaders are as of Friday afternoon huddling in the Speaker's office trying to sort out whether they can get enough votes to approve the measure. House conservatives want to continue fighting to block the President Barack Obama's actions on immigration and want to go to conference to work out differences between the House GOP bill and the Senate Bill passed bill earlier Friday.

A bloc of moderate House Republicans who back passing the clean DHS funding bill from the Senate are balking at voting on setting up a conference committee to hammer out the differences between these two bills.

But because Democrats are opposing the short term bill Boehner now needs support from both camps in the GOP conference to pass the short term bill.

How he handles the looming showdown over a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security could dictate the rest of his speakership, as House conservatives warn compromising now means he's effectively allowing Democrats to block GOP agenda for the next two years. Doing something that angers his right flank could again raise questions about his ability to lead the Republican conference.

The Senate also approved a longer-term funding bill Friday even though it will be ignored by the House.

On a 68-31 bipartisan vote, the Senate cleared a so-called "clean" DHS bill, after stripping of provisions opposed by Democrats that would have blocked President Barack Obama's recent executive orders on immigration.

But the measure will be dead on arrival in the House, where conservatives are angry the Senate dropped the immigration provisions. The House will approve the short-term bill instead in order to keep fighting on the immigration issue.

The Senate is expected to clear a similar three-week bill later in the day, assuring the agency will stay open.

Congress looked like it was at an impasse over funding the agency, which is set to shut down Friday. That would put thousands of workers on furlough without pay and while Obama administration officials say short-term security impacts will be minimal, they warn of potential issues in the long-term.

At issue are policy constraints added to the funding bill that would limit Obama's immigration actions: House conservatives insist on including the restrictions, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not been able to get them passed and is promising a vote on a funding-only measure.

Thursday evening, Boehner outlined a plan at a closed-door caucus meeting to vote on Friday on a clean three-week funding bill for DHS, according to two House Republicans who attended the meeting. The speaker said this would give House Republicans more time to press for a conference with the Senate on their bill and the clean funding measure the Senate is expected to send over.