House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) got both cheeky and testy with the media today when pressed on what his caucus will do with a “clean” Department of Homeland Security funding bill that breaks off the de-funding of President Obama’s immigration executive actions.
The Senate let the “clean” appropriations bill proceed on a 98-2 cloture vote yesterday. The two “nays” came from Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).
But the caucus is already splitting further on the bill. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the GOP leadership, said he won’t vote for a bill that doesn’t block the immigration funding.
“At least 22 times, President Obama said he didn’t have this authority. At least half a dozen of my Senate Democrat colleagues publicly agreed and objected to the president’s executive amnesty. We must uphold the Constitution and the law,” Blunt said.
“President Obama is more likely to sign legislation that is attached to funding the department, which is why I still believe the House-passed bill was the right approach to addressing this problem.”
Boehner battled back against the White House characterizing the rifts as a Republican fight. “All Republicans agree that we want to fund the Department of Homeland Security and we want to stop the president’s executive actions with regard to immigration,” he said.
Still, the speaker is noncommittal about what the House will do with the scaled-back version of their bill.
“House passed a bill six weeks ago. It’s time for the Senate to do their work,” Boehner said. “I don’t know what the Senate can produce or what they can’t produce. If they produce something, we’ll decide what we’re going to do after we see it.”
Will he be able to persuade his caucus to vote for the bill? “When I see what the Senate actually passes, then I’ll know,” he replied.
Does he feel that this is challenging his speakership? “No. Heaven sakes, no. Not at all.”
“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,” he added.
At the next question, Boehner replied, “If ands and buts were candy and nuts every day would be Christmas.”
Pressed further about the DHS funding expiring this weekend: “We passed a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security six weeks ago — six weeks ago. It’s time for the Senate to act. We passed a bill to fund the department six weeks ago. How many times do I have to say it?”
Reporters were frustrated that he kept answering the questions the same way. Boehner responded to the next one with air kisses toward a male reporter.
“That’s just a kiss, that’s all,” he quipped.
“Several,” the reporter replied.
On the other side of the aisle, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) held a joint presser to accuse Republicans of seeking a DHS shutdown.
If House Republicans “send over a bill with all the riders in it” after the Senate passes a clean version, Reid said, “they’ve shut down the government.”
“We are not going to play games. We’ve been working for a month to come up with a clear funding proposal the president can sign, so they can — they can put all the riders on it they want, we will not allow that to take place,” he said.
“I think what they’re demonstrating, though, is that immigration is not the reason they’re shutting down the government, it was the excuse they were using. Because now, they have an out from what the judge did — said in Texas, and now they still want to shut down government,” Pelosi said. “So understand, shutting down government is their motive, and that’s what they have to be held accountable for.”