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Dept. of Homeland Security shutdown looms, would idle 15% of workforce

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In a move that could have ramifications for domestic anti-terrorism efforts, US House Speaker John Boehner said he would let funding for the Department of Homeland Security lapse on Feb. 27 in order to reverse Obama’s immigration reform actions.

House Republicans have passed a Homeland Security appropriations bill, but it is contingent upon defunding Obama’s 2012 and 2014 executive orders that negated the threat of deportation for an estimated five million undocumented immigrants seeking refuge in the United States.

In the Senate, Democrats have blocked the House funding bill three times, calling for “clean” DHS-funding legislation that would maintain Obama’s immigration orders. Obama, meanwhile, has threatened to veto the House measure.

“Senate Democrats are the ones standing in the way,” Speaker Boehner told Fox News on Sunday. “They’re the ones jeopardizing funding.”

Would he let the department’s funding expire? “Certainly,” Boehner answered. “The House has acted. We’ve done our job.” In the Senate, however, Republicans do not seem as headstrong about playing with DHS funding to defeat the immigration orders.

“The American people did not give us majority to have a fight between House and Senate Republicans,” Arizona Sen. John McCain said on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press,’ in reference to last November’s midterm election. “They want things done. You cannot cut funding from the Department of Homeland Security. We need to sit down and work this thing out.”

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said last week that the Upper Chamber was “stuck” and that it was up to the House to make the next move.

Despite this supposedly critical juncture, Congress is taking this week off, meaning lawmakers will have Feb. 24-27 to settle on DHS funding before its expiration.

Funding expiration would affect some Department of Homeland Security (DHS) services, but not front-line airport or border security, according to reports.

The agency has designated around 85 percent of its workers, or about 200,000 people, as being ‘exempt’ from a forced furlough given they work in areas that are vital to security or are funded by sources unrelated to the congressionally-approved budget, Reuters reported.

For instance, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) travel screenings at airports would certainly continue, as would the Federal Air Marshal Service, Coast Guard patrols, and disaster relief execution.

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