The White House continues to pressure Congress to pass a clean bill that funds the Department of Homeland Security without gutting President Barack Obama’s executive action that shields from deportation more than four million immigrants here illegally.
Senate Democrats blocked a bill Tuesday that would have provided nearly $40 billion to finance the Department of Homeland Security, but also reverse Obama’s 2012 order deferring deportation of young immigrants brought to the country as children.
On Wednesday, Obama plans to meet with a half dozen young immigrants who have received the special status as part of efforts to put a sympathetic face on the policies that many Republicans want to end.
White House officials said Obama will reiterate that his executive actions are lawful and that Republicans’ efforts to reverse his actions will “tear apart millions of immigrant families -- many of whom have been living here for decades.”
DHS’s current budget expires Feb. 27 and the agency could face a partial shutdown if Congress fails to act by then.
Secretary Jeh Johnson met with Obama Tuesday. He has also lobbied Senators to pass a clean funding bill. He told reporters at the White House that the shutdown of DHS "right now, in these times, is too bitter to contemplate." But he said the agency is taking measures just in case. In the event of a shutdown, he said essential employees would have to report to work but not get paid.
"These are challenging times right now, both in terms of our counter terrorism priorities, border security, aviation security, cybersecurity, maritime security port security and all of the other vital homeland security missions."
Johnson said he remains optimistic a shutdown will be averted because members of Congress "recognize the importance to the American people of funding" DHS.
White House Correspondent Lesley Clark contributed to this report.