Republicans still don't have an exit strategy that will allow them to fund the Department of Homeland Security while canceling President Barack Obama's temporary administrative amnesty for millions of immigrants.
The uncertainty over the future of the DHS funding measure — which must be cleared by the end of next month or partially shut down the department — sets up a tension with the message the GOP is seeking to send from their bicameral retreat that they intend to govern responsibly.
“Obviously we want to show the American people that we can function in a very responsible way, with no stop/starts, no government shutdowns; we have the ability to have foresight … to deal with these issues in a manner that show tremendous responsibility,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.
But when asked about the prospects in the Senate of a DHS bill passed by the House Wednesday, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the Senate Republican Conference chairman, stressed that the GOP would need to find at least six Democrats to clear any filibuster efforts, or more if some blue-state Republicans up in 2016 won’t support the measure. The GOP holds 54 votes in the Senate.
“The magic number in the Senate is 60,” Thune said. “When we have these discussions, as we had today and yesterday, with our colleagues in the House, obviously, we share the same goals. We think that the president overstepped his authority … and we intend to challenge that.”
Thune called the House bill "the start of a process."
“We want to give our members a chance to vote to express their opposition to the president’s action, but we also realize in the Senate it’s going to take 60 votes” to pass the bill, Thune said.
The bill includes provisions that would block Obama’s administrative actions on immigration, but those provisions have almost no chance of getting the six Democratic votes needed to get the bill to Obama's desk. Even if it somehow reaches his desk, the president has promised a veto, and Republicans aren't even close to having the two-thirds majority in each chamber for an override.
Only two House Democrats voted for the bill and 10 House Republicans voted against.
Thune declined to characterize what Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., expects to do, but added that discussions were ongoing.
McConnell, however, has said Republicans want to avoid government shutdowns, which would suggest that in the end Republicans will fund homeland security rather than risk a shutdown.
Immigration and border security is a topic of one of the afternoon sessions the members will be participating in. Chairman of the respective committees will lead the sessions. Other topics include budget and reconciliation, as well as health care.
Thune said 47 of 54 GOP senators attended the retreat.
Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.
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