WASHINGTON » A congressional stalemate over funding for the Homeland Security Department deepened Thursday as Senate Democrats blocked action on the bill for a third straight day to protest Republican language on immigration.
"This is like ‘Groundhog Day,’" Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) complained on the Senate floor after the measure failed to advance. The vote was 52-47, eight short of the 60 needed to move ahead. Two procedural votes earlier in the week yielded similar outcomes.
Homeland Security funding will lapse Feb. 27 without action.
The legislation, passed last month by the House, funds the agency through the remainder of the budget year while reversing President Barack Obama’s administrative policies protecting millions of immigrants living in this country illegally from deportation.
Senate Democrats say they won’t agree to the bill unless all the immigration language is removed. Republicans say such a bill won’t pass the House.
Republican leaders in both chambers insist they will not allow the Homeland Security agency to go without funding at a time of global terror threats. But if they have a solution, they haven’t said what it is. The likeliest scenario may be a short-term funding extension.
"There is a bipartisan desire to fund the Department of Homeland Security, and I’m sure we’ll resolve this sometime in the next few weeks," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
"God bless him and good luck," House Speaker John Boehner said later of McConnell. "What else can you say?"
The logjam offered a vivid illustration of the limits on Republicans’ power even now that they control both chambers of Congress for the first time in eight years. Senate rules give minority Democrats significant rights, and Obama’s veto pen gives him the ultimate leverage.
No one seemed to know how it would all end.
"You’re asking me to speculate and predict an outcome, which at this point I’m not able to do," said Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.). "What I can tell you is we can’t finish a bill if they won’t let us get started on it."