How the Iowans voted on the Homeland Security funding bills (updated)

Funding for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been bogged down in a dispute over how far Congressional Republicans should go to overturn President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration. The rest of the federal government is funded through the end of this fiscal year (September 30), under a deal the previous House and Senate members approved in December. But conservatives held up funding for Homeland Security to preserve leverage for the new Congress.

Last night, a partial shutdown of the department was averted when senators approved a one-week funding measure and House members followed suit. Whether a majority can be found next week for a longer-term bill remains unclear.

Iowa’s own Steve King (R, IA-04) has been beating the drum for weeks urging conservatives not to give in and pass a “clean” Homeland Security funding bill. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst have been less vocal about the matter, but they opposed the clean bill approved by a majority of senators yesterday (which didn’t come to a House vote).

Follow me after the jump for details on where the Iowans stood on all the recent Congressional votes related to this standoff.

In mid-January, House Republicans approved a Homeland Security funding bill that would withhold appropriations for any programs related to Obama’s executive orders on immigration. Iowa’s Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) all voted for that bill. Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) was absent that day, but based on his record regarding immigration issues, he surely would have voted against it, as did all but ten House Democrats.

Three times in early February, Senate Republican leaders attempted to invoke cloture on a motion to proceed to debating the House Homeland Security funding bill. Three days in a row, Democrats were able to deprive the GOP of the 60 votes needed for cloture (roll calls here, here, and here). Iowa’s Senators Grassley and Ernst voted with their Republican colleagues each time.

This past Monday, Senate Republicans again failed to pass a cloture motion to proceed to debating the Homeland Security funding bill. Democrats held firm against debating this bill without a promise that the immigration language would be stripped out.

As the deadline approached, more and more Senate Republicans grew reluctant to let a shutdown of the Homeland Security department happen on their watch. A plan to bring a “clean” funding bill to a vote took shape. On the morning of February 27, senators approved a cloture motion to proceed to debate on the bill. Iowa’s Grassley and Ernst were among the 31 Republican who opposed that motion. Then, Republicans including Grassley and Ernst tried unsuccessfully to table an amendment changing the substance of the bill. That amendment, allocating funds to the Homeland Security Department through September 30, then passed by 66 votes to 33 (roll call), with Iowa’s senators in the no camp. Finally, the bill itself passed by 68 votes to 31 (roll call). Ernst and Grassley were among the 31 Republicans who voted no.

Later yesterday, Republicans tried but failed to proceed to debate a bill “to prohibit funds from being used to carry out certain Executive actions related to immigration.” Grassley, Ernst, and most of the GOP caucus voted for that motion, but they could only get 57 votes in favor.

All that remained to prevent a shutdown was a House vote for a clean Homeland Security appropriations bill. However, House leaders had a different plan. They put forward a bill that would fund the department for three weeks, leaving time to keep negotiating over immigration language. Democratic leaders whipped their members to reject the plan, so the bill failed with just 203 votes in favor and 224 against (roll call). Blum and Young voted for the short-term bill. Loebsack voted against it, as did King and a group of House conservatives who wanted to stand and fight over the immigration language. From King’s perspective, Republicans were “lured into [a] fish trap on DHS funding.” He celebrated with this tweet:

Defund of Obama’s lawless #Amnesty still lives. Effort 2 fund just failed in House. Thank you fellow COS Members. Still have long way 2 go.

Blum explained his position in a written statement status update:

This afternoon I voted to fund the Department of Homeland Security for the next 21 days. This legislation would have kept DHS fully open while allowing the House and Senate time to reconcile their differences in conference. I would have voted “No” if any funds went towards President Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty, but those actions have been halted for now by the recent court ruling in Texas.

King sees things differently. In his view, the federal court ruling should motivate Republicans to take a harder line. From a press release his office sent out on February 17:

“Judge Hanen’s order, that came down yesterday, essentially says that President Obama is operating lawlessly in regards to his executive amnesty actions,” said King.”Further, the President doesn’t have the legal authority to waive the law or the legal authority to grant work permits to people he decided to waive the law for illegal aliens.

This is definitely a victory that changes the dynamics of the debate in the United States Senate today, and its also one that starts us down the path where we could eventually shut off all the President’s lawlessness.

I was the first advocate for defunding and blocking the President’s amnesty since 2011 with the Morten Memos. This order from yesterday is a judicial vindication of the positions I have long held on the President’s actions on immigration.

This is a significant step forward, but only a temporary halt against the President’s actions. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to do their constitutional duty and vote to cut off all funds for Obama’s illegal and unconstitutional, executive amnesty actions.”

Again taking to Twitter yesterday, King elaborated,

The greater number of NO votes R’s put up, the stronger our cases in court. Given leadership decisions, we can only win in court.

Let’s preserve Constitutional ground on which to fight.

Rebecca Shabad reported for The Hill,

The eleventh-hour votes in Congress had forced the Obama administration to begin preparations for a partial government shutdown, with DHS releasing a 47-page contingency plan spelling out which employees would have been “essential” and forced to work without pay at agencies like the Coast Guard, Secret Service and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.    […]

The defeat of the three-week bill was a humiliating defeat for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and left his leadership team scrambling for a path forward as a bloc of their conservative members refused to vote for any funding bill that did not reverse President Obama’s executive actions on deferred deportations for illegal immigrants.

With time running out, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested a new bill to fund Homeland Security for a week, and that bill passed by voice vote in “an almost empty Senate” chamber.

In Shabad’s words, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi “came to the rescue late Friday evening, sending a letter to Democrats urging them to vote for a one-week continuing resolution (CR) of Homeland Security funding without any immigration riders.”

Shortly before 10 pm, House members voted on the one-week bill. Because the measure was brought to the floor under a suspension of the rules, a two-thirds majority was needed for passage. That proved easy with Democratic support, and the bill passed that bill by 357 votes to 60 (roll call). All but five of the no votes came from Republicans. Blum, Loebsack, and Young voted yes, while King voted no. I haven’t seen a new statement from Blum or King, but Young’s office released the following last night:

“My two guiding principles throughout this debate on Department of Homeland Security funding have been consistent. I want Homeland Security to remain fully open, but I cannot allow the president’s unconstitutional executive actions to move forward. The recent federal court ruling in Texas, coupled with my votes today reaffirms and upholds both of these guiding principles. This legislation allows us to work together to achieve a solution that not only keeps the Department of Homeland Security open, but one that also respects and reaffirms the balance of power designated in the Constitution.  It is now up to all sides to work together to get the job done.”

Stay tuned for more drama next week. It’s hard for me to see the Senate agreeing to anything but a clean funding bill, but for now, House leaders appear unwilling to put a clean funding bill to a vote.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Ernst released this statement following the Senate votes:

Friday, February 27, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) released the following statement regarding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding and the President’s executive amnesty:

“For the last several weeks, I have voted five times to fund the Department of Homeland Security. As a soldier and member of both the Homeland Security Committee as well as the Armed Services Committee, I have made clear that I want to find a meaningful path forward.

“I have heard from Iowans throughout the state who adamantly oppose President Obama’s executive amnesty. I agree and voted today on legislation on behalf of Iowans to override the President’s executive amnesty.

“We must continue working toward a solution to stop this overreach by the President while also working to preserve our national security. This morning’s vote did not accomplish that in one package and I want to do what we can through this one-week continuing resolution to continue working together toward that goal before funding expires.”

The House and Senate tonight passed a continuing resolution to fund DHS for one week at current funding levels.

SECOND UPDATE: King’s office released this statement on March 2 (emphasis in original).

King Introduces Resolution to Block Amnesty Trap for House Republicans

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Steve King released the following statement after introducing his resolution to the appropriations bill funding the Department of Homeland Security for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015.

“House Democrats voted last week for the one-week DHS funding bill because they knew they would have the power to call up the DHS amnesty funding bill for a vote this week,” said King. “They are poised to take control of the floor and fund executive amnesty. A House Resolution can stop it, if we amend Rule XXII.

Clause 4 of Rule XXII of the House Rules provides privilege to a motion to dispose of any amendments ‘when the stage of disagreement has been reached on a bill or resolution’ as soon as the Senate formally disagrees. The DHS appropriations bill reached the stage of disagreement in the House last Friday. The Senate is poised to act tonight. From that moment, Nancy Pelosi or any Member of the majority or the minority can make a privileged motion to fund executive amnesty through September 2015. Under the Constitution, both chambers of Congress make their own rules. The House can change its rules by simple majority and has a duty to do so to protect the Constitution. It is our urgent obligation to immediately amend or suspend Clause 4 of Rule XXII.

The precedent for this is still fresh. Rules preemption was exactly the tactic used by our Leadership to prevent a similar privileged motion on the first day, in the first hour (1:00am) of the shutdown, Oct 1, 2013. If Republicans are serious about defending the Constitution and defunding the President’s amnesty, a similar resolution must be passed this week before Democrats can act. Republicans were elected on a promise to stop Obama’s unconstitutional amnesty. A single clause in a rule we have the power to change is not an excuse to fund lawlessness. This is only a trap if we fail to act. Leadership’s back is not against the wall unless they choose it to be.

This is why I have drafted a resolution that will amend the Rule so that only the Majority Leader or his designee can offer the privileged resolution on the DHS bill. I urge my colleagues to join me in this fight for upholding and restoring the Constitution. The time to fight is now.”

To view the full text of the resolution, click here.

Here is the full text:


Relating to consideration of the bill (H.R. 240) appropria- tions for the Department of Homeland Security for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015.

1 Resolved, That any motion pursuant to clause 4 of 2 rule XXII relating to the bill H.R. 240 may be offered 3 only by the Majority Leader or his designee.

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