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GOP mulls stopgaps for Homeland Security funding

Lisa Mascaro
Chicago Tribune

Washington – — With money for the Department of Homeland Security set to run out at midnight Friday, Republican leaders in Congress struggled to convince their followers to fund the huge department now and fight President Barack Obama’s immigration policies later.

“The speaker’s pretty adamant that he’s not going to shut down Homeland Security ...,” said Rep. Dennis Ross., R-Florida, emerging from a closed-door strategy session with the Republican rank-and-file.

The Senate on Thursday proceeded with a compromise plan pushed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky. It includes a straightforward bill to fund the department, which the chamber may pass as soon as Friday. The bill would not contain the immigration restrictions that had been attached by House Republicans.

In a nod to conservatives, McConnell has promised a separate vote on immigration policy once the Homeland Security funds have been approved.

The Senate’s most conservative members had been forcing the Republican leader to run out the clock with procedural steps that might have delayed passage of the money bill until Sunday. But by Thursday afternoon, they had largely relented.

But even if the money clears the Senate, the bill still faces trouble in the House. More than 30 conservative members have called on Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, not to follow the Senate’s approach.

Without legislation signed into law by the weekend, an estimated 30,000 Homeland Security employees would be furloughed beginning Monday. Tens of thousands more would be expected to work without pay.

House Republican leaders hastily convened a meeting late Thursday evening of rank-and-file members and floated the prospect of a bill to fund the department for three weeks to ensure no disruption in Homeland Security operations while Congress continued to debate.

That stopgap maneuver could allow House Republicans time to devise a response to the Senate compromise.

Democratic leaders showed little patience for that approach.

Associated Press contributed.