High drama in D.C. as Homeland Security funding bill passes Congress

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On a day of high drama on Capitol Hill, Congress approved a bill to fund Homeland Security for one week before a midnight deadline.

The measure heads to President Obama’s desk.

Before that, by voice vote late Friday on the East Coast, the Senate backed the bill, sending the measure to the House of Representatives just hours before the agency faced a partial shutdown.

Acting without fanfare, the Senate cleared the measure less than four hours before the midnight deadline that would have triggered a partial shutdown at the federal agency with anti-terrorism responsibilities.

It came a few hours after the House, in a surprise move, rejected a bill to grant the department a three-week extension. Many House Republicans objected to the measure for failing to roll back President Barack Obama’s immigration policies and House Democrats opposed it for failing to fund the department through the end of the budget year.

“It’s important for people in Congress to support the security of our nation and we shouldn’t be playing political games with this particular issue,” said Hawaii Representative Mark Takai from Washington, D.C. at about 2 p.m. HST. “Right now, we have about 3,000 people in Hawaii that will be affected. The worst case scenario is some of them will be furloughed until this is resolved, but all of them will be working, in many cases, without pay.

“The Senate Democrats and Republicans sent over to us a clean bill, 98 Senators voted in favor of that. We’re just asking the House Speaker and his House Republicans to support the Senate position and to fund Dept. of Homeland Security to the end of the year, and to keep discussions on immigration reform for another day.”

Earlier in the day, Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono released the following statement after the House’s failure to pass a bill to fund DHS through a three-week continuing resolution:

“After this afternoon’s stunning vote, the House has just a few hours to prevent a Department of Homeland Security shutdown. Speaker Boehner should bring the Senate’s clean bill to the floor for a vote and fund DHS for the rest of the year. This has been a manufactured crisis and it’s time for House Republicans stop playing games with the department responsible with keeping our nation safe.”

“The congress should not be governing through temporary funding which takes away any ability to plan,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. “It takes away the ability for those who are working in these departments who are doing this public service to doing their job. There was an opportunity to pass a full appropriations bill tonight that would best serve our law enforcement, that would best serve those on the ground that didn’t happen, but it looks like that will happen next week.”

The bill that was passed Friday expires on March 6 so lawmakers expect much debate and discussions in the coming days.

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