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House decides immigration battle will have to wait with vote to fund Homeland Security

Last week, the House was unable to pass a long-term bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security. Many Republicans wanted to use the budget to take a stand against President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. On Tuesday, a minority of Republicans joined Democrats in approving a bill without strings attached. Political editor Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to discuss what changed.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    As we mentioned earlier, the dramatic fight over Homeland Security funding has ended three days before the money was to run out. Many House Republicans wanted to use the agency’s budget to take a stand against President Obama’s actions on immigration.

    As a result, last week, the chamber could not pass a funding bill.

    Our Lisa Desjardins reports on what changed today.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    The numbers tell this unusual story. See those yes-votes to fund Homeland Security with no strings attached there on the left? Those came mostly from Democrats. Only a minority of Republicans, like Idaho’s Mike Simpson, joined those Democrats.

    Those Republicans argued that the battle over the president’s actions which allow more undocumented immigrants to stay in the country, that battle will have to wait.

  • REP. MIKE SIMPSON, R-IDAHO:

    Congress must continue the fight, fight the president’s actions on immigration that I do not support and the American people do not support. We must continue this fight, but we must also allow funding for critical security functions to move forward.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    That’s the split. Dozens of other GOP conservatives, like Raul Labrador, also of Idaho, insisted the president’s actions are so egregious, that Republicans should use all their leverage.

  • REP. RAUL LABRADOR, R-Idaho:

    This fight today is not about immigration. This fight today is about the separation of powers. Any person who votes for this deal today is voting to cede some of our power to the executive.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid hailed the outcome and blasted Republicans.

  • SEN. HARRY REID, Minority Leader:

    This crisis was completely unnecessary. In the future, I hope we can avoid those kinds of knockdown, drag-out fights and work together for the good of the American people.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And Lisa joins me now.

    What a day at the Capitol.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Incredible. What a weekend.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, what is it that caused Speaker Boehner to change his strategy and call this vote for full funding for Homeland Security through September?

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    To be fair, Speaker Boehner has been very quiet through this whole fight, even going back a week ago, about exactly what his strategy was the whole time.

    And, in fact, he hasn’t said anything publicly today. But I think what happened here, Judy, is this. He tried to pass a funding bill with the immigration bill attached, as his conservatives wanted. That didn’t work. He took that apart, detached the immigration issue. And then Friday night in that amazing vote I know you talked to Mark and David about, they still could not pass as bill with just a three-week extension.

    My sources tell me that Friday night, it was clear to the speaker and those around him that the only option was the Senate bill if they wanted to keep Homeland Security funded. And they came. They got the bill in their hands today and then they voted on it.

    One other factor I want to bring up is the political factor. We saw something very rare today, in that a Republican action group called the American Action Network posted this e-mail, posted this press release saying they were going to send $400,000 in ads to support Homeland Security funding. This came out this morning. Those ads were going to be run against conservatives.

    We’re talking TV ads, Rush Limbaugh, 50 congressional districts. Judy, they were targeting the leaders, if you will, of this immigration action, the ones who were willing to go to the brink on this. And here’s a Republican group saying, no, don’t go to the brink; we will fight you as Republicans on this.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Highly unusual to see something like that.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Yes.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, Lisa, what does it mean that you had, what, almost two-thirds of Republicans voting against their own Republican speaker?

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    It means these are very difficult times for the Republican Conference. As one congressman told me today, they have a major and difficult conversation as a conference to have now.

    But they have been having that conference for a while. I think, looking more big picture, our viewers are probably looking at governance and what happens next in general. And I think this shows that for now the only way that these must-pass fiscal spending bills can pass is with a combination of Democrats and Republicans, and not necessarily a majority of Republicans.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, Republicans, we have been talking about an historically high number of Republicans, what is it, 242 Republicans, as many as we have had in almost 80 years, but are we now seeing a new alignment among these Republicans?

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Yes, right.

    So, since we’re on TV, I will say one caucus, we can call maybe the no-way caucus. They’re willing to draw the line and stand there and not move. They were the ones who held up this spending bill. Then let’s say there’s another caucus that maybe I will call the another day caucus. I’m opening a box here, but maybe our viewers have other suggestions.

    But this is the caucus that says, let’s not fight this battle now. Let’s pass a spending bill and let’s get to other issues. Then there’s a group in the middle that’s not sure what to do. They feel strongly. They are tempted to say no way. They also feel that there’s a pragmatic call to govern, and it’s that group in the middle, which, by my calculation, is about half the caucus, that will decide what happens next.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Yes, but they today are the ones who sided with the no way members, the 50 or so members who were driving this issue.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Well, I think that gets to my point.

    If you look at the numbers, there were 50 in the no way caucus Friday — that’s a lot of members — and then about 70 today who said, let’s do this another day. And then there’s people that go back and forth. Those folks who today sided with the speaker and said let’s fund DHS now includes a lot of freshman up-and-comers, Martha McSally, Mimi Walters, people who are strong on security issues, maybe have serious swing districts, and they’re taking a stand and saying, we want to govern and we want to get past this.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    It will be interesting to see what this means for the speaker going forward.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Yes.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Lisa Desjardins, we thank you.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    My pleasure.

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