Senate Democrats will mount their fourth filibuster on the bill Monday afternoon.
By John Bresnahan and Burgess Everett
2/22/15 – 6:17 PM EST
Late Monday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will force the fourth vote in three weeks on a bill to fund the massive agency that protects Americans from terrorists, floods and incursions across the borders. Senate Democrats will almost certainly block it again.
And after that, all of McConnell’s options become messy, with just four days left to avoid a partial government shutdown that some senior GOP lawmakers and aides now consider nearly unavoidable.
The Kentucky Republican could cave to Democrats’ demands and abandon the GOP’s attempt to tie the Department of Homeland Security’s funding to an attack on President Barack Obama’s immigration policies. But pushing through a short-term continuing resolution for DHS would bring howls from the right, postpone the immigration showdown for only a couple of weeks or months, and most likely fail in the House. McConnell would gain nothing even if he could pass such a CR, which is far from a sure thing.
Or, as some conservatives outside the Senate want, McConnell could employ the “nuclear option” to abolish the filibuster on legislation, allowing Republicans to pass the $39.7 billion DHS bill with a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than 60. But that would mean destroying the Senate traditions he’s vowed so loudly over the years to protect — and Obama would still veto the bill.
Bloomington, UNITED STATES: A sign at the Mall of America is pictured 02 February 2006 in Bloomington, Minnesota. The largest in the US with more than 40 million visitors a years, the Mall of America has become one of the biggest tourist attractioins in the country. AFP PHOTO/Timo GANS (Photo credit should read TIMO GANS/AFP/Getty Images)
Or McConnell could keep bringing the same House-passed GOP bill up for more votes, seeking to break the filibuster, or hope Democrats will reach for a deal before the clock runs out at midnight Friday. But Obama’s party, convinced that voters will blame Republicans if DHS shuts down, is clearly relishing having the upper hand. The president is traveling to Miami on Wednesday for an immigration-related event to be broadcast on MSNBC, essentially goading conservatives to keep pushing for a shutdown over the issue — a move that one Senate GOP insider likened to throwing a “can of gasoline” on the fire.
McConnell, known for keeping even his inner circle in the dark about his thinking, isn’t tipping his hand so far on what he’ll do past Monday. No announcements are expected before Tuesday afternoon, when Senate Republicans and Democrats will huddle behind closed doors at their regularly scheduled policy luncheons.
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