The deadly attack in Paris this week is complicating Republican lawmakers’ plans to force a showdown with President Barack Obama over funding for the sprawling government agency that spearheads U.S. counterterrorism efforts.
Several prominent Republicans said on Thursday there should be no interruption in funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which is tasked with preventing attacks on U.S. soil and with securing the country’s borders, airports and coastal waters.
The agency’s funding expires on Feb. 27. Republican leaders had planned to use the deadline as leverage to challenge Obama’s new program shielding millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Such a move would likely draw a White House veto, risking a cut-off in DHS funding.
Some moderate Republicans said they need to tread carefully on DHS funding after Wednesday’s attack by two Islamist gunmen killed 12 at the offices of the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
“I’m against the executive order, and we should stop it, fine, but we cannot in any way weaken our homeland security funding when it comes to counterterrorism,” said Representative Peter King, a senior Republican member of the House Homeland Security committee. “You can’t afford to cut back $1.”
House Speaker John Boehner will hold a closed-door meeting with Republican lawmakers on Friday to discuss handling of the DHS funding deadline, with plans for a vote next week.
Boehner told a news conference that the House “will soon take action” aimed at stopping Obama’s executive order but gave no details, other than to say this would not put DHS funding at risk.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers said the plan was still under discussion, though he hopes to introduce a bill on Friday that seeks to fully meet the Obama administration’s DHS funding request while blocking implementation of the immigration order. If it were vetoed, Obama would take the blame for cutting off DHS funds, he said.
Another plan would use a stand-alone bill to block funds from being spent to implement the immigration order. King said that a quick vote on the DHS funding plan would leave Republicans some time for revisions before the Feb. 27 deadline in case of a veto.
Republican Representative Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina conservative, said the Paris attack showed the need for Homeland Security funding but Congress should still “send a message” to Obama on immigration.
“I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive,” he added.
(Reporting By David Lawder; Editing by Caren Bohan, Cynthia Osterman and Ken Wills)