WASHINGTON — Congress passed a one-week bill late Friday to avert a partial shutdown of the Homeland Security Department, as leaders in both political parties quelled a revolt by House conservatives furious the measure left President Obama’s immigration policy intact.
The final vote of a long day and night was a bipartisan 357-60 in the House, a little more than an hour after the Senate cleared the measure without so much as a roll call.
That sent the legislation to the White House for Obama’s signature, which the president provided a few minutes before midnight.
The day in D.C.
Education: House GOP leaders Friday abruptly canceled a vote on a bill to update the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind law after struggling to find support from conservatives. The bill would keep the annual testing requirements on schools but would give more freedom to states and districts to spend federal dollars and identify and fix failing schools. Conservative opponents said it doesn’t go far enough in letting states and districts set education policy. Democrats also dislike the bill and said it would abdicate the federal government’s responsibility to ensure that poor, minority, disabled and non-English speaking students go to good schools and that billions of federal education dollars are spent wisely.
Payback: Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., repaid $40,000 from his personal checking account for redecorations to his congressional office in the style of the TV show “Downton Abbey,” according to financial records. He paid $35,000 earlier this month to the owner of the Illinois decorating firm Euro Trash, and $5,000 more Thursday, the records showed. His official House expense account had previously paid the group for its services. Schock has been under scrutiny for using taxpayer money to pay for the redecorating and using his official and campaign funds for flights on donor-owned planes and concert tickets. Schock’s office said Friday his payments made good on an earlier promise to personally shoulder the costs of the office renovation.
Seattle Times news services
“You have made a mess,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said at one point to Republicans, as recriminations filled the House chamber and the midnight deadline neared for a partial shutdown of an agency with major anti-terrorism responsibilities.
Even some Republicans readily agreed.
“There are terrorist attacks all over world, and we’re talking about closing down Homeland Security. This is like living in a world of crazy people,” tweeted Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., a former chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.
Hours after conservatives joined with Democrats to vote down a three-week funding measure, 224-203, the Senate presented a one-week alternative to keep open the agency, which has responsibility for border control in addition to anti-terrorism measures.
That amounted to a take-it-or-leave-it offer less than three hours before the deadline.
Some Republican opponents — members of a “Freedom Caucus” — sat together in the chamber as the vote total mounted in the legislation’s favor.
This time, Pelosi urged her rank-and-file to support the short-term measure, saying it would lead to passage next week of a bill to fund the agency through the Sept. 30 end of the budget year without immigration add-ons. Aides to Speaker John Boehner promptly said there had been no such promise made.
On the one-week-extension measure, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Bellevue, voted no, while Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, did not vote; the rest of the Washington delegation voted yes.
Taken together, the day’s roller-coaster events at the Capitol illustrated the difficulty Republicans have had this year in translating last fall’s election gains into legislative accomplishment, a step its own leaders say is necessary to establish the party’s credentials as a responsible, governing party. Republicans gained control of the Senate in November’s balloting, and emerged with their largest House majority in more than 70 years.
Tea-party conservatives in the House defended their actions.
“It does not make any difference whether the funding is for three weeks, three months or a full fiscal year. If it’s illegal, it’s illegal,” said Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala.
He referred to a pair of immigration directives issued by Obama. The first, in 2012, lifted the threat of deportation from many immigrants brought to the country illegally as youngsters. Another order last fall applied to millions more who are in the United States unlawfully.
The unexpected House defeat of a three-week spending bill was accomplished by 52 conservatives upset by the deletion of the immigration provisions, alongside solid opposition from Democrats who wanted the agency funded through Sept. 30.
That set an unpredictable chain of events in motion. Homeland Security officials circulated a lengthy contingency plan indicating that about 30,000 employees could expect to be furloughed without passage of funding legislation.
White House officials then said Obama had spoken with Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.
Moments later, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky strode onto the Senate floor and swiftly gained approval for the seven-day measure.
The most lasting damage from the vote may be to Boehner, R-Ohio, Senate leader McConnell and the Republicans’ effort to showcase their congressional majority as evidence of the party’s ability to govern.
Instead, Friday’s vote brought a chaotic scene to the House floor, as the 52 rebellious Republicans rebuffed a last-minute effort by their leadership to salvage the measure.
House leaders kept the roll call open for almost an hour, long after the official voting time had expired, as they sought unsuccessfully to persuade members to change their votes.
Nearly all House Democrats voted no because they preferred a Senate-passed bill that would have provided funds to the department for the rest of the fiscal year.