By Erica Werner and David Espo
WASHINGTON — Bitterly admitting defeat, the Republican-controlled Congress sent legislation to President Barack Obama on Tuesday that funds the Department of Homeland Security without any of the immigration-related concessions they demanded for months.
Obama promised to sign the bill as soon as he received it, while criticizing Congress for taking “far too long” to pass it.
“Sanity is prevailing,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., a former chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, before the House voted 257-167 in favor of the $40 billion spending bill. All 182 Democrats present voted for the bill, while it received only 75 Republican “yes” votes.
“I am glad that House Republicans finally came to their senses,” said Rep. Loretta Sanchez of California, a top Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee.
The outcome averted a partial agency shutdown which would have begun Friday at midnight. It was a major victory for Obama and the Democrats, and a wholesale retreat for Republicans, who have spent months railing against an “unconstitutional overreach” by Obama in extending deportation stays and work permits to millions of immigrants in this country illegally.
In the end, Republicans who’d tried to use the DHS spending bill to undo Obama’s actions had little to show but weeks of gridlock and chaotic spectacle on Capitol Hill in the wake of assuming full control of Congress in the November midterm elections. The turmoil brought the Homeland Security Department to within hours of a partial shutdown last Friday before Congress passed a one-week extension, and raised questions about Republicans’ ability to govern responsibly.
On Tuesday morning, addressing an uncharacteristically subdued gathering of House Republicans, Speaker John Boehner indicated he was out of options.
“I am as outraged and frustrated as you at the lawless and unconstitutional actions of this president,” Boehner 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.”
“Our Republican colleagues in the Senate never found a way to win this fight,” he said, noting that the matter is now in the courts. A federal judge last month put Obama’s directives on hold, a ruling the White House is appealing.
Conservative lawmakers who humiliated Boehner last week by voting down a three-week spending bill he proposed did not speak up in the private meeting to dissent or ask questions, people present said.
Afterward, they said they were disappointed but had no more moves to make.
“I don’t know that there is one,” said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. “This is the signal of capitulation.”
In a statement, Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson thanked Democrats and Republicans who voted for the bill and, “in particular, those in Congress who showed the leadership necessary to get the job done.”
In his own statement, Obama praised Homeland Security employees as “law enforcement professionals and brave patriots who do a remarkable job, and deserve our gratitude and respect. Today, after far too long, Congress finally voted to fully fund their mission.”