Turn off the shutdown clocks; the stalemate is finally over.
After months of indecision and strife, the House passed a clean bill Tuesday to fund the Homeland Security Department through the rest of the fiscal year, over the objections of demoralized conservatives who fought to include language blocking President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
The measure passed, 257-167, with every Democrat joining 75 Republicans in voting to put an end to a saga that has dragged on since the end of the 113th Congress. Both Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had both pushed to avoid a DHS shutdown, and—after a series of headaches and tense moments—they succeeded.
Dejected conservatives acknowledged Tuesday morning, after a closed-door GOP conference meeting where Boehner revealed his plan, that there was little they could do to avert passage. They don’t have the votes in the House to truly exercise their will over the leadership by threatening Boehner’s speakership, and Republicans don’t have the 60 Senate votes necessary to overcome a filibuster in that chamber.
“So he just caved in there,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp said of Boehner, adding: “Guess he forgot that a number of us had recommended that this was a poor strategy back in December.”
Rep. Steve King said: “This is the inevitable end.”
Rep. Mick Mulvaney agreed that Tuesday’s clean funding vote has been “inevitable” since Congress approved the so-called “CRomnibus” in December, and that opponents were never going to win.
“I think we were destined to fail,” Mulvaney said. “This was always going to be the outcome. … There’s nothing to be gained here. This is an unmitigated loss for conservatives.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, according to a source in the room, Boehner told members that the GOP was simply out of options.
“As you’ve heard me say a number of times, the House has done its job by passing legislation to fund DHS and block the president’s executive actions on immigration,” Boehner said, according to the source. “Unfortunately, the fight was never won in the other chamber. Democrats stayed united and blocked our bill, and our Republican colleagues in the Senate never found a way to win this fight. The three-week CR we offered would have kept this fight going and allowed us to continue to put pressure on Senate Democrats to do the right thing. Unfortunately, that plan was rejected.”
Boehner said the House’s only options were a DHS shutdown, yet another short-term CR, or the clean Senate bill:
“With more active threats coming into the homeland, I don’t believe [a shutdown is] an option,” Boehner said. “Imagine if, God forbid, another terrorist attack hits the United States.”
Boehner also pointed to a recent court ruling halting Obama’s executive actions on immigration as reason for hope.
“I am as outraged and frustrated as you at the lawless and unconstitutional actions of this president. … I believe this decision—considering where we are—is the right one for this team, and the right one for this country,” Boehner said, according to the source. “The good news is that the president’s executive action has been stopped, for now. This matter will continue to be litigated in the courts, where we have our best chance of winning this fight.”
Speculation in the past 48 hours had focused increasingly on a quirk in House rules that would allow any individual House member, Republican or Democrat, to bring the funding bill to the floor as a privileged resolution, guaranteeing an up-or-down vote. In the end, Rep. Mike Simpson—a close Boehner ally—used that provision to bring the bill to the floor.
King drafted a resolution that would suspend the House rule allowing a privileged vote on the funding bill, but his resolution was meaningless unless the leadership allowed it to pass.
King said there was “zero dissent in the room” Tuesday as Boehner offered his plan, mainly because of “exhaustion” over the constant back and forth with the Senate.
Rep. John Fleming, a House Freedom Caucus founding member, said more battles pitting the president against Republicans are coming—and leadership should be prepared.
“We need to improve our tools and our ability and support, and create more courage among our leadership to act earlier and to take more action to put a stop to executive unilateral actions by the president,” Fleming said.
Boehner also got some support Tuesday. Rep. Patrick McHenry said one member at conference reminded lawmakers that Boehner had taken “tough hits” for inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress Tuesday. McHenry said Boehner got a standing ovation for “standing firm” on that issue.
This story has been updated.
Rachel Roubein contributed to this article.