Here's Why No One's Funding the Department of Homeland Security

March 2nd 2015

Alicia Lutes

Another day, another drama on Capitol Hill. This week it's the funding of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — and the looming shutdown should a resolution not be reached. But this last-minute, week-long extension only gives them a few days until Friday rolls around and the whole song-and-dance begins again, only this time with a more long-term budget needed. So naturally, there's a storm churning within both sides of congress, but the fight has proven there's a big divide a-brewin' (no, not the longstanding one between Republicans and Democrats) within the Republican party itself.

What Does the Department of Homeland Security Fund?

The DHS controls our nation's shores, ensuring border security and the enforcement of our nation's immigration laws. Created in 2001 after the September 11 attacks, it essentially runs as Interior Ministries run outside the U.S., protecting our country and its territories from (in addition to responding to) terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and man-made accidents.

What's Keeping Congress from Passing a Budget?

Basically, it's another war between Republicans and Obama, mostly because some are not a fan of how lenient he's being towards undocumented immigrants. Not too long ago, President Obama issued an executive order to bring his immigration plan to fruition — all of which is implemented by the DHS. Depending on which side you ask, this was either marginally legal at best (constitutionally speaking), or a long overdo policy shift to give the country time to proactively reform its current immigration policies. And because the DHS is the department that funds immigration-related activities, this is the Republican's biggest bargaining chip. 

Since Congress cannot directly stop Obama's executive order, their only other option to stop it is to deny funding of the DHS. Because if the DHS doesn't have money, the executive order can't be implemented.

But Wait — Aren't the Republicans Fighting Internally?

Yes. There's a faction of Republicans who want to solve the funding problem (including Speaker Boehner), and another group that will only approve funding if it involves resolutions on immigration and the Affordable Care Act. 

"House conservatives want to attach language undoing President Barack Obama’s immigration order, an idea that is going nowhere," reports U.S. News & World Report. "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been a grownup and a realist about this, acknowledging that the measure would never get the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster."

And it's extra tricky because the conservative members of the House won't get in trouble with the people they represent for coming down hard on these additions — something the Republicans actively sought to achieve — so they've dug in their heels. But the Senate Republicans, by and large, believe that it's important to show solidarity in getting a bill passed, and want everyone to look at the bigger picture (y'know: our homeland security).

So What's the Big Deal? Why Not Let it Lapse?

Outside of security concerns, it'd be a big issue for the roughly 230,000 employees (15% of the staff) who would be out of jobs until Congress decided to vote through a budget. Not a good look for a Congress with an incredibly low approval rating.