Senate Passes ‘Clean’ $40B DHS Funding Bill

Today the U.S. Senate passed a “clean” $39.7 billion bill funding the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through 2015 after earlier resolving an immigration-related impasse, as the House of Representatives sought to buy more time for debate with a short-term DHS funding measure.

Senators voted 68-32 on the passage of H.R. 240, which will fund DHS through to the end of fiscal year 2015, after voting in favor of an amendment stripping out disputed language which would have defunded implementation of contentious recent immigration-related executive actions, as agreed under a bipartisan deal hashed out earlier in the week.

Following the vote on the DHS funding bill, senators rejected a cloture motion on proceeding to official debate on a separate bill regarding the executive actions, S. 534, the Immigration Rule of Law Act, falling just short of the necessary 60 votes to proceed, in a 57-42 vote.

With the Senate agreeing to the clean bill, the fate of the agency’s funding is now in the hands of House lawmakers, who had in January passed the funding bill with the immigration “rider” attached.

Some House lawmakers have publicly expressed reluctance to take on a funding bill without the immigration clause attached, and on Friday House leaders sought to buy time for further discussion on the legislation, beginning debate on a continuing resolution, or CR, extending DHS’ current temporary funding — set to expire at the end of the day on Friday — through to March 19.

The House will also seek to convene a panel to go to conference with the Senate to hash out their differences over the bill, which may lead to another stand-off, with Senate Democrats — having filibustered the legislation until the dispute clause was removed — having publicly indicated they will not support anything other than a clean bill.

DHS, the parent agency of subagencies including U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was the only agency that did not receive full-year funding in December’s “cromnibus” appropriations bill, amid the dispute over President Barack Obama’s executive actions.

Under those executive actions, estimated to cover about 4.4 million undocumented immigrants, certain unlawful immigrants who are the parents of lawful residents would be granted temporary deportation amnesty and limited work privileges, after passing a necessary background check.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which covers certain undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors, would also be expanded by removing its age cap and lengthening a deportation deferral under the program to three years.

In addition to the ongoing fight over the actions in Congress, the disputed actions have also been the subject of a court challenge, brought by 26 states in Texas federal court. The judge in that suit, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen, has issued a temporary injunction against the actions going into effect, which the federal government has asked him to stay.