House Republicans could bring up legislation as early as next week to fund the Department of Homeland Security past its Feb. 28 expiration date.
The GOP conference is not, however, settled on how to curb President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration, or whether language for that effort should be included in the actual spending bill — a move that would likely set the spending bill up for a White House veto. Exiting a meeting with House Democratic whips on Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson made an impassioned case for a bill that funds his agency long-term. He did not mention funding to implement Obama's immigration orders, but instead appealed to conservatives who want the department to secure the U.S.-Mexico border and bolster the Secret Service.
"It's important that the Department of Homeland Security be funded through an appropriations bill," Johnson told reporters. "We cannot continue through the course of the year to function on a continuing resolution. That poses real risk to the homeland security."
Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., told CQ Roll Call a day earlier that he would soon introduce a stand-alone DHS spending bill that would run through the remainder of the fiscal year. He added that no decisions have been made about including language to nullify the immigration executive orders.
But conservative lawmakers are already putting down markers to show their leadership that there are viable methods to stymie Obama on immigration, which was the stated intent of unlinking the Homeland Security spending bill from the larger appropriations package — the "cromnibus" — late last year.
On Tuesday, the opening day of the 114th Congress, Appropriations Committee member Robert B. Aderholdt, R-Ala., spearheaded the introduction of legislation that would bar all authority and funding for the expanded initiative granting stays of deportation to young undocumented immigrants — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
It also would establish more stringent requirements for work permits and green cards, force local law enforcement agencies to turn over undocumented immigrants and require those agencies to comply with the controversial "Secure Communities" deportation program, which Obama's executive order ended.
Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., another member of the Appropriations Committee, dropped a bill on Wednesday specifically intended to "present model language that can be used in a Homeland Security Appropriations title to block President Obama's unilateral executive actions."
Meanwhile, Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, could still be prepared to bring up legislation similar to the amendment sought for inclusion in last month's cromnibus by Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., and others.
Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y., the former chairman of the Homeland Security authorizing committee, said he supported legislation targeting Obama's immigration changes. "We have to find a way, absolutely," he told reporters Wednesday morning.
But King cautioned that Congress had to be careful not to try to force the administration's hand with something that would have an adverse affect on the nation's security infrastructure. That was an especially important consideration, King said, in light of that very day's deadly terrorist attacks against a satirical newspaper in Paris.
"I would just say that if they want to target immigration to retaliate against the president, that's fine, but we have to make it clear ... at a time when we saw this massive attack in Paris, that we can't be cutting funding of programs which would protect Americans from a terrorist attack," he said.
Tamar Hallerman and Jennifer Scholtes contributed to this report.
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