The “blame the Senate” mantra continues for the House GOP over the DHS funding battle.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) talks to the media.
Yuri Gripas / Reuters
WASHINGTON — At the start of this session of Congress, House Republicans were hopeful that things would be different and with the GOP in charge of the Senate, everyone would finally be on the same page.
After all they'd spent the past four years complaining that Democratic leader Harry Reid was their main blockade to real progress. But now there is an open split between how House Republicans want to tackle funding for the Department of Homeland Security and the approach Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has taken in the Senate.
And conservatives in the House are now grappling with the reality that their dreams of Republican kumbaya may still be far away.
After multiple failed attempts to pass a House bill that would both fund DHS and target President Obama's recent immigration executive actions, McConnell struck a deal with Reid to split the bill, allowing for a vote on a "clean" DHS bill. It's unclear how the House will respond but funding for DHS runs out Saturday morning at 12:01.
"They put the surrender caucus in charge of the Senate and Harry Reid is still in charge," said Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp. "There are going to be millions of folks that helped change the Senate from Democrat to Republican that are going to be very disappointed in Sen. McConnell. They are trying to figure out what the difference is between the two on these particular issues."
McConnell would have needed sixty votes to move forward on debate on the House bill and fell short every time. To Huelskamp, that excuse wasn't good enough.
"There's been no message right now. I saw five emails over the weekend about keystone and nothing about DHS," he scoffed.
While the House and Senate share priorities on things like job legislation and most recently the Keystone pipeline — the battle over funding DHS has brought to light much of the tension between the two chambers. Boehner told his conference earlier this week that he had not talked to McConnell in two weeks and has said repeatedly he's waiting on the Senate to act.
Some Republicans are more willing to give McConnell some credit but still felt that he didn't do enough to hold the line and fingers were being pointed at House Republicans for holding up the funding.
"I think the message is – and I don't want to attack my Republican colleagues in the Senate — but my message to Sen. McConnell is we need to listen to our constituents. And they aren't happy with what President Obama did with the executive actions," said Tennessee Rep. Stephen Fincher. "I am very frustrated that we continue to get the blame. We passed something, the Senate didn't. We did our job."
"Its' sort of like a marriage. It's give and take," Fincher added. "If we're always giving and they are always taking this ain't gonna work."
The finger pointing is going both ways. Sen. Mark Kirk told reporters earlier in the day the Senate needed to "say to the House: 'Here's a straw so you can suck it up.'" Even conservative members of the upper chamber have relented and said they will not hold up a vote on the clean DHS bill.
"It's frustrating but they have to do what they think is right," sighed Florida Rep. Ted Yoho. "I'm not over there. I think we sent a good bill over there and I would have liked to have seen stronger talk coming out of the Senate."
Not every GOP member of the House thinks that McConnell did the wrong thing. New York Rep. Peter King, a frequent critic of House conservatives, said McConnell was "being an adult" by letting a clean bill come up for a vote.
"These guys always say Harry Reid is tying up the senate and maybe he is, but when it comes here we shouldn't tie up the house," King said.