He also took aim at Republican arguments that a lapse in DHS funding would not be ‘the end of the world.’

By Lauren French
1/29/15 8:50 PM EST

PHILADELPHIA — President Barack Obama vowed to House Democrats on Thursday night that he would “happily” veto any legislation that would “compound” the country’s immigration problems — posing yet another challenge to Republican efforts to pass a Homeland Security spending bill by next month’s deadline.

“If rather than try to solve the broken immigration system they compound the problem, I’ll veto it,” the president said in a buoyant and aggressive speech at a retreat for Democratic House lawmakers in Philadelphia, echoing the feisty approach his administration has taken to dealing with the Republicans who control both ends of the Capitol. He also promised once again to veto bills that would repeal Obamacare or roll back Wall Street regulations.

Proclaiming that “America has come back,” he urged Democrats to stand proudly on the economic policies they have pursued during his time in the White House, saying that “the record shows that we were right” — despite the drubbing their party took at the polls in November.

And he called for a narrower approach to the spending cuts that are now driven by the annual sequester process, saying they should be “a scalpel and not a meat cleaver.”

“Let’s make sure we are funding the things that American families need,” he said.

Obama spoke just days before Senate Democrats are promising to filibuster a House-passed bill that would fund the Department of Homeland Security while rolling back years of the president’s immigration policies, including last fall’s decision to shield potentially millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. Senate Democrats are demanding a “clean” DHS bill, while conservative House Republicans have warned that no such bill could pass their chamber.

DHS funding is due to run out Feb. 27, but POLITICO reported Wednesday that some top House Republicans believe a funding lapse may not be so worrisome because most of the department’s employees are considered essential and would stay on the job — though their paychecks would be withheld.

“In other words, it’s not the end of the world if we get to that time because the national security functions will not stop,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) said at the time. While Diaz-Balart said Congress shouldn’t ignore the funding deadline, Obama repeatedly seized on the “not the end of the world” line Thursday night.

“You think we can afford to have our Department of Homeland Security not functioning because of political games in Washington?” Obama asked.

As for Obamacare, the president said: “I hear Republicans are holding their 50th or 60th vote to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act. I’ve lost count at this point. But if that bill actually ever reached my desk, I would happily veto it.”

House Republicans are scheduled to vote next week on legislation that would repeal the president’s signature health care law.

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