Senate Reaches Deal On Compromise $40B DHS Bill

The U.S. Senate today voted to begin official debate on a “clean” $39.7 billion U.S. Department of Homeland Security funding bill, after Senate leaders agreed to strip out a clause blocking funding for certain contentious immigration-related executive actions that had led to a filibuster.

Senators voted 98-2 to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to H.R. 240, after Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., reached a deal to take separate votes on DHS funding and the disputed executive actions that President Barack Obama announced on Nov. 20.

The bill, which passed the House of Representatives in mid-January, had stalled amid a Democratic filibuster, blocked from proceeding to official debate in four separate votes.

After the fourth failed vote, on Monday, McConnell indicated he would seek a different approach, saying he would move to consider separate legislation condemning the president’s executive actions, which Republican lawmakers have claimed is an unconstitutional overreach of his executive powers.

The majority leader did not explicitly state at the time that he would accompany that immigration funding bill with a “clean” DHS funding bill but eventually acquiesced on Wednesday, hashing out a deal with Reid to amend the bill to strip out the disputed clause in order to win Democratic support.

The Senate Republican caucus largely supported their leader on Wednesday, with only Sens. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., voting against the motion to proceed. Assuming the bill passes the Senate, it will need to pass the House again in its amended form, which could have a tougher time, given vocal public opposition from a number of House Republicans to any alteration to the legislation.

The DHS, as 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 sole agency not to get full-year fiscal 2015 funding in last year’s “cromnibus” appropriations bill, amid the immigration dispute.

Under the president’s disputed 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.