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US House of Representatives breaks Homeland Security-immigration deadlock

The US House has passed a bill to fund Homeland Security, without targeting President Barack Obama's immigration policies. Hard-line Republicans seeking to block an immigration amnesty had threatened to hijack the bill.

Congress voted to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Tuesday, averting a threat that might have led to a major shutdown of the agency.

The House of Representatives voted by 257 to 167 to provide the agency with its budget through to the end of September, without adding riders to stifle Obama's executive action on immigration. That action on

immigration reform

last year - implemented under presidential prerogative that bypassed Congress and which critics have branded unconstitutional - would grant amnesty to millions of undocumented residents in the US.

Conservative-minded Republicans had hoped to use the bill to scupper the immigration plan by tagging on the amendments. Republican House Speaker John Boehner told his fellow Republicans he would not use his position to block a vote on a clean bill - passed with support of moderate Republicans and all Democrats in the House.

Grenzzaun an der US-amerikanisch-mexikanischen Grenze

Border control is one of the key duties with which the DHS is charged

"I am as outraged and frustrated as you at the lawless and unconstitutional actions of this president," Boehner was reported by aides to have told his caucus. "I believe this decision - considering where we are - is the right one for this team, and the right one for this country."

The bill provides nearly $40 billion (36 billion euros) of funding for the DHS, which was created after the 9/11 attacks. The agency secures US borders, airports, coastal waters and other important facilities.

A halt in funding means that DHS would have been forced to furlough some 30,000 employees, or some 15 percent of its workforce.

Unity on the part of Democrats last week blocked passage in the Senate of House-passed legislation containing the conservative immigration provisions.

Obama's orders have been blocked by a federal judge in Texas, although the White House has said

it will appeal the ruling

.

An

interim, one-week extension of funding

to the DHS by Congress had prevented an earlier shutdown of the agency.

rc/bw (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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