US Congress narrowly averts Homeland Security shutdown | News | DW | 28.02.2015
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US Congress narrowly averts Homeland Security shutdown

The US Congress has passed a one-week funding extension for the Department of Homeland Security. The vote came just hours before the department faced a partial shutdown.

US lawmakers late on Friday voted to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for an additional week amid a proxy battle over President Barack Obama's immigration reforms.

The approval of the one-week funding bill narrowly avoided a partial shutdown of the agency, which is responsible for securing the country against terror threats and for border control.

The extension was put forward by the Senate as an emergency measure after Republican House Speaker John Boehner, under pressure from his party's right wing, refused to allow a vote on a comprehensive funding bill cleared by the Senate earlier on Friday.

Conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives were angry that the measure did not include amendments sought by fellow House Republicans to block President Barack Obama's immigration executive orders protecting millions of illegal immigrants from deportation.

Boehner instead proposed a three-week DHS spending bill that would have allowed the DHS to function normally and bought time for Republicans to press against Obama's immigration reforms.

However, Republicans, who have a large majority in both houses after midterm elections in November, joined with Democrats in voting down that bill 224-203 in the House of Representatives, with conservatives wanting Boehner and others to stick by the amendments to the immigration plan. Democrats, for their part, found the measure too short-term.

Eleventh-hour vote

Less than three hours before funding for the agency was due to run out at midnight on Friday, the Senate then presented the one-week alternative to keep it open.

This time, top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi - who earlier accused Republicans of making a "mess" - urged her rank-and-file to vote through the measure, saying it would lead to a vote next week that would see full funding passed through September 30.

"Your vote tonight will assure that we will vote for full funding next week," Pelosi wrote in a letter to colleagues.

The one-week measure was voted in by 357-60 with just two hours to spare, giving President Obama just enough time to sign the bill before midnight.

A shutdown would have seen 30,000 DHS employes furloughed, while some 200,000 agency staff, including border agents and airport screeners, would have been ordered to work without pay.

tj/kms (AP, AFP)

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