Senators in the US avoided a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security at midnight by extending funding for a week. The department manages borders, coastlines and oversees anti-terror initiatives.
The US Senate passed a bill late on Friday to ensure a week's funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The move was an emergency effort to avert a partial shutdown of the agency at midnight after Republicans dramatically blocked a three-week extension House Speaker John Boehner had proposed.
Lawmakers in the US scrambled to determine their next steps in what was being seen as a political battle to block President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration by attaching provisions to the Department of Homeland Security's spending bill.
Earlier on Friday, Senate Republicans approved a DHS bill that was free of controversial amendments to block Obama's immigration orders, but Boehner opted not to vote on the bill, introducing instead a three-week stopgap funding arrangement which would allow DHS to function normally and also buy time for Republicans to press against Obama's immigration reforms.
However, the speaker's moves backfired with even Republicans refusing to back the three-week extension.
"You have made a mess," House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said to Republicans. Some of her Republican colleagues even agreed with Representative Peter King of New York tweeting: "There are terrorist attacks all over the world and we're talking about closing Homeland Security. This is like living in a world of crazy people."
Obama and Homeland Security officials had earlier warned that a short, partial shutdown could hurt the agency, which spearheads domestic counterterrorism efforts and secures US borders, airports and coastal waters.
Created after the September 11, 2001 attacks, Homeland Security provides work for about 230,000 people. A shutdown would result in 30,000 employees losing their jobs and the rest ordered to work without pay.
mg/bk (Reuters, AP, AFP)