Conservative push for 'leverage' with homeland security cash as funding deal draws near

House conservatives chided their leadership on Friday for considering a lengthy stopgap funding patch for the Department of Homeland Security, arguing that it would amount to surrender to Democratic border policies.

Top lawmakers are mulling an extension of funding through September for DHS as part of the six-bill spending package they’re working to finalize over the weekend, since they have struggled to reach a compromise amid partisan disputes over border security and immigration policy, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

Clearing a full-year stopgap would not trigger any of the funding cuts or caps some House conservatives have pressured Speaker Mike Johnson to embrace as leverage in negotiations with Democrats. But a stopgap that expires before Sept. 30 would preserve that threat of across-the-board slashing, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) noted Friday.

A short stopgap for DHS “could help us gain leverage on border security,” Lee posted on X, adding that a full-year patch would instead “solidify Biden’s border-security disaster.”

“Secure the border,” Lee wrote. “Or shut it down.”

Roy questioned why GOP leaders are pushing for a spending package that would include “no policy reforms” for DHS, “while radical progressive” Democrats “force this horror on Americans?”

Of the dozen bills that Congress enacts to fund the government, top appropriators and congressional leaders have struggled most acutely to resolve disagreements over the Homeland Security spending measure. While the bill is always the most difficult when it comes to striking a bipartisan deal, lawmakers this time are working with very limited money and competing partisan priorities over border security, personnel and humanitarian needs.

While a stopgap through the remainder of the fiscal year would allow Congress to move forward with finally closing out a chaotic government funding cycle, the DHS spending bill represents the only real opportunity for lawmakers to send money to the southern border and push for improvements.

Democrats see the Republican criticism as hypocrisy, particularly after the implosion of the Senate’s bipartisan border security package last month.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who oversees the Homeland Security spending measure, said Thursday that lawmakers will have to start pivoting to a backup plan for Homeland Security funding “pretty soon.”

“Republicans need to make the decision that they want to get a deal on the border,” he said. “I worry that the same thing is happening on the appropriations bill that happened on the border bill.”

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