The clock is ticking on Congress making a deal to fund the nation’s Homeland Security Department after lawmakers approved a stop-gap measure last weekend.
Late Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved by a bipartisan 357-60 margin a one-week bill that would avert a partial shutdown of the federal agency that was formed in response to the 9/11 attacks of 2001.
It’s an agency that has significant ties to Pulaski County thanks to U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers, from right here in Somerset. Rogers became the first elected leader to helm the Subcommittee on Homeland Security in 2003, and helped Pulaski land the National Institute for Hometown Security which was organized a year later.
For the most part, it’s been fiscal conservatives from Rogers’ own Republican Party — who have lent the passage of a funding bill drama. Thus, Rogers finds himself in conflict with his fellow GOP legislators in his own mission to keep Homeland Security monetarily afloat.
"It is critically important that Congress keep the Department of Homeland Security open and operating,” Rogers said in response to a request for comment from the Commonwealth Journal. “I am hopeful that we will soon arrive at a resolution that provides our homeland security personnel with the necessary resources for the remainder of the fiscal year.”
Rogers advocated for a funding measure on the floor of Congress last week, urging his colleague to vote yes “without any further delay” in a late-running process.
“To allow a shutdown of these critical functions, would be an abdication of one of our primary duties as Members of the House,” said Rogers. “It is no way to govern the Nation and the American people deserve better.
“It’s the eleventh hour and we must act to provide stable, continuous funding for the agencies and programs tasked with defending our home turf,” added Rogers.
The resolution in place will last until March 6.
Rogers hoped that would allow legislators “the needed additional time to continue negotiating a path forward on how to fund DHS for the rest of the year.”
On Monday, House Speaker John Boehner left open the possibility Monday of passage of long-term funding for the Department of Homeland Security without immigration provisions attached, as his alternatives dwindled for avoiding a capitulation to the White House and Democrats, according to the Associated Press.
Boehner declined to say over the weekend if he would permit a vote on the Senate-passed measure, and his spokesman similarly sidestepped the question on Monday. Officials in both parties predict it would pass, and end the recurring threat of a partial agency shutdown.
Democrats said they believe the speaker eventually would relent and permit a vote on the bill, which conservatives oppose and President Barack Obama is eager to sign. "I would hope and expect that we will have a vote" this week, said Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second-ranking House Democrat.
The White House also urged a vote on the measure.
A funding bill for the agency has produced partisan gridlock in the first several weeks of the new Congress, even though Republicans gained control of the Senate last fall and won more seats in the House than at any time in 70 years.
Democratic unity blocked passage in the Senate of House-passed legislation with the immigration provisions. By late last week, a split in House GOP ranks brought the department to the brink of a partial shutdown.
The Associated Press
contributed to this story.