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Friday, 27 February 2015

Homeland Security shutdown may be averted as Senate approves emergency funding

The threat of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) running out of money at midnight receded fast on Friday as both the Senate and House of Representatives passed measures to fund it without attaching immigration riders that would be vetoed by the White House.

But the sudden flurry of votes in both chambers may yet only postpone the bitter fight with Barack Obama by a few days as the version proposed by the House only funds the department for a further three weeks.

A longer funding bill was passed in the Senate by 68 to 31 votes that would extend the DHS budget through to September 30, yet it needs a matching vote in the House to reach the president’s desk.

More conservative Republicans are angry that their party’s leadership in the Senate appears to have caved into Democrat demands that they strip out measures that would force Obama to abandon his executive action to defer deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants.

As a result, House speaker John Boehner has offered to extend funding by three weeks to give time for the two chambers to hold a “conference” that would attempt to reconcile their divisions.

A procedural vote to pave the way for this stopgap solution in the House was passed by 240 to 183 on Friday morning, suggesting Boehner will comfortably pass the three-week extension this afternoon without support from House Democrats.

Whether a three-week extension and conference would be acceptable to Senate Democrats was initially unclear, but with the threat of a damaging shutdown receding temporarily at least, many members seemed willing to accept it for now and resume the fight next week.

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