Updated 4:41 p.m. | Three days before Homeland Security department funding was due to expire, the House successfully voted Tuesday to fund the agency through the end of September.
The 257-167 vote puts an end the lurching uncertainty for the department, but time will tell just how easy it will be for House Republican leaders to move past the drama of the past few weeks. On Tuesday, every House Democrat made it possible for 75 House Republicans to secure passage of the policy rider-free DHS funding bill the Senate advanced nearly a week ago.
That vote occured because Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, gave tacit permission for senior appropriator and Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson to force floor consideration of the Senate-passed bill using House Rule XXII .
Allowing a bill to pass without the majority of the majority party's support, plus opting not to block Rule XXII — as leadership did during the government shutdown of 2013 — incited anger among the most conservative wing of the House Republican Conference that may not quickly dissipate.
A group of conservative lawmakers working under the umbrella of the newly formed House Freedom Caucus tried to derail passage of the bill Tuesday, first by offering a "motion to table" consideration of the measure.
It was defeated — though 140 Republicans voted in favor, and the showing included more than just so-called fringe members. Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, voted on the motion to table debate on the clean DHS bill, as did Caucus Vice Chairwoman Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan.
Then, objecting that the two designated managers of floor debate were both in favor of the measure — Simpson and Appropriations ranking member Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y. — Freedom Caucus founding member Thomas Massie, R-Ky., was permitted to serve as a third debate manager to represent the opposition and offer critics of the bill sufficient opportunity to voice concerns on the record.
"We're being told by leadership that the only alternative to this bad deal is a government shutdown," said Rep. Raúl R. Labrador, R-Idaho. "That is not true. The alternative to this bad deal today is a better deal: To force the Senate to actually go to conference."
The Senate voted against going to conference with the House to negotiate a bicameral DHS spending bill, which is what, in effect, put the clean bill back to the House's court.
"My heart breaks here because there are creative things we could have done if we were willing to try," said Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz.
Freshman Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Ala., agreed it was foolish not to use the next three days to see if there was another path forward that would block the immigration actions and fund the DHS, since the current stopgap spending measure doesn't officially expire until Friday.
"I stand with the speaker of the House of Representatives — at least, where he was last week," dinged Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, in reference to Boehner's decision to now allow a vote on the Senate bill after saying just a few days earlier he'd fight against it.
At the conclusion of debate, Simpson took rare, public aim at the GOP lawmakers who were trying to sink the effort.
Simpson said that while he agreed with colleagues that Obama overstepped legal bounds in unilaterally changing existing immigration law, "I don't see a path to victory with what they're looking at. What they want to do will not result in defunding the president's executive actions, because there is no funding in this bill for the president's actions.
"There is no funding in this bill for the president's executive actions," Simpson repeated. "Everybody knows that, don't we? What it will lead to is a close-down of the Department of Homeland Security, and that is not a victory. That is dangerous."
Simpson also challenged Republicans such as Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina and Morgan Griffith of Virginia, who said on the floor Tuesday that Senate Republicans should change the rules of the filibuster to let the GOP-controlled chamber to advance conservative bills without Democratic stonewalling.
Would House Republicans be successful in compelling their Senate counterparts to pursue the "nuclear option," and would it be advisable to try?
"Ehhhhhhh," was Simpson's response.
On the final vote to fund the DHS through the remainder of the fiscal year, 167 Republicans voted "no." As with the prior vote on the motion to table, GOP lawmakers who aligned themselves against the bill represented a mix of Freedom Caucus affiliates and those considered part of the "establishment."
Sessions and Jenkins were two members tied to leadership who voted "no" on the passage, releasing statements saying they couldn't support a measure that didn't explicitly block the immigration actions.
Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., a member of the House GOP whip team, also voted against the bill, along with several committee chairmen including Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz, Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte and Agriculture Chairmain K. Michael Conaway.
House Democratic leaders took a victory lap following the vote.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., spearheaded an impromptu news conference to congratulate her colleagues for standing together to create the "leverage" that culminated in passing a clean DHS bill.
"I'm proud of the vote today," she said.
Homeland Security ranking member Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said the party made it clear Tuesday: "Democrats care about the security of this country."
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