Homeland Security shutdown remains possible

Feb 27, 2015

With less than six hours before funding for the Department of Homeland Security runs out the House of Representatives has voted down a three-week funding extension. The vote was 203 to 224. The House did agree, however, by a vote of 228 to 191 to conference with the Senate to reconcile differences between bills each body has passed that fund the Department through the rest of the fiscal year. The Senate bill, passed earlier today, 68-31, is a “clean” bill without any legislative provisions. The House bill, passed six weeks ago, contains provisions blocking implementation on executive actions by President Obama on enforcement of immigration law.

Despite the House agreement to conference, Homeland Security employees still face the prospect of furlough beginning at midnight or of working without pay, if their positions are considered essential to public safety. This week, I cosponsored the DHS Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act, H.R.1024, to protect DHS employees from the loss of wages. But many DHS employees will find it difficult to pay their bills when they are not getting paid; and a promise of future payment is only marginally helpful.

Local governments also have reason to be anxious. Without a full year funding bill these jurisdictions are not getting the grants they normally receive from DHS. Last year, for instance, the Northern Marianas received $854,000 from the State Homeland Security Grant and $908,568 from the Emergency Management Performance Grant, programs administered by Homeland Security and in limbo until Congress fully funds the Department.