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

But Reid said earlier Thursday that a conference was a non-starter for Democrats, and the GOP would need to get 60 votes for a conference committee to actually happen.

Several conservatives spoke up at the meeting against the plan, arguing it would approve money for a program they believe is unconstitutional.

Earlier in the day, Boehner repeated his mantra -- the House had done its job and it was up to the Senate to act. After being pressed by a reporter to explain his end game the speaker blew kisses -- a gesture familiar to the Hill press corps from a joking Boehner when he is signaling he's not going to answer a question.

"Democrats are using Homeland Security funding for blackmail to protect the actions of the President," he said, insisting the GOP was united. "

Even as he and McConnell pursue completely different strategies to address the impending funding lapse, Boehner insisted the GOP is on the same page.

"It is not a fight amongst Republicans. All Republicans agree we want to fund the Department of Homeland Security and we want to stop the President's executive action with regard to immigration," he said.

But McConnell did split with Boehner earlier this week when he agreed to Democrats' demands to drop provisions that were attached to the House-passed spending bill that blocked the President's executive actions on immigration.

The Senate is expected to approve that so-called "clean" funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security by Friday, dropping the issue back in Boehner's lap. Many House conservatives are angry that McConnell gave into Democrats and want to hold the line when it comes to the administration's immigration policies.

Kansas Republican Tim Huelskamp took a swipe at the GOP leader's move, saying, "it put the surrender caucus in charge of the Senate and Harry Reid is still in charge."

Some Republicans are urging the House to point to the recent ruling by a Texas judge to suspend the administration's program to process visas for those wanting to remain in the country.

"The courts have acted. Accept the victor that the courts have given us, which is the President does not have the authority to do what he has done and vote to continue to fund the Department of Homeland Security. I think that is the right decision," Sen. John Barasso, R-Wyoming, said on CNN on Thursday.

There is some discussion among House Republicans about responding to the Senate with a new funding bill that would tie DHS money to the court's move to block the program. But Boehner maintained that the legislative branch needed to respond to what he argued was an effort by the President to circumvent their authority.

"The courts have stopped the President's executive action, at least temporarily. But having said that, I think there's a role for Congress to play in defending the Constitution and upholding the rule of law. And we intend to do that," Boehner said.