Congress: DHS Funding Overshadows Netanyahu’s Speech

Washington –Tomorrow morning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will speak to a joint session of Congress on his disagreement with the seven-nation talks to limit Iran’s nuclear program headed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The prime minister’s address is set for around 10:45 a.m. ET Washington, D.C, time hardly a prime-time address.

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem it will be 5:45 p.m. where a large television audience will will be  watch the speech on a five minute delay so that network censors can cut out anything deemed as political.

The networks in Israel do not want Netanyahu to gain any advantage over those running against him in the March 17th elections.

It was thought last week that the Netanyahu would be the biggest thing in Washington this week by far, however things change around here quickly. While, there is no doubt that  Netanyahu’s speech on the security of Israel is still a highlight, the spot light has now shifted to the funding of the Department of Homeland Security.

Congress just beat a midnight deadline Friday night to fund the agency for a week until a long term deal could be worked out. But the story changes from Israel’s security to that of the security of the United States as House Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team must come up with a plan that will placate the Tea Party part of his caucus.

They want have promised only that they’ll continue battling President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration. The Tea Party Republicans in the House want to pass the DHS funding only if there is a way to overturn President Obama’s immigration actions.

The Senate voted last week to pass a DHS funding bill that would carry the department through the rest of the fiscal year which ends in September. They at the same time sought to attack  President Obama’s immigration plan separately.

“We want to get a conference with the Senate,” Boehner said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “Now, [Senate Democrats have] made clear that they don’t want to go to conference. But they’re going to have a vote. If they vote, in fact, not to get a conference, this bill may be coming back to the House.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) last week made the choice to split DHS financing from measures to do away with the immigration actions, and the Senate passed a clean funding bill with a 68-31 vote on Friday. However, the House made things far more interesting, openly defying Speaker Boehner on the House floor by defeating its plan to fund DHS for three weeks.

A scramble ensued. Late Friday night, just hours before DHS was set to run out of money, Capitol Hill a deal was done to buy seven-days of DHS funding. President Obama signed it into law minutes before midnight. The weeklong extension came after Democratic aides reported reaching a deal with Republicans: House Democrats would provide the votes to get it approved, and, in return, Boehner would allow a vote this week to fund DHS through September. Democrats said it was predicated on the Senate rejecting Republicans’ request to negotiate a compromise funding deal.

This morning Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that House Democrats expect Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring a “clean” Homeland Security funding bill to the floor this week. Hoyer, the minority whip, said Democrats have the option of using an obscure House rule to force a vote on funding legislation that does not include language reversing President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. But  he predicted they won’t have to go that route.

Instead, he said he expects GOP leaders will bring a bill backed by Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) to the floor. That bill, approved by the Senate last week, would fund Homeland Security though Sept. 30.

“My expectation is there will be a substantive vote — not a procedural vote — a substantive vote on the Senate bill presented by Majority Leader McConnell,” Hoyer said during a press briefing in the Capitol.

“I don’t want to discuss how it’s going to come up, because I don’t know. It could come up in a number of different ways,” he added. “But we, on Friday, came to a conclusion that, in fact, it will come up.”

Hoyer also suggested that Democrats would not support another short-term DHS funding bill, known as a continuing resolution (CR).

“We believe that another short-term CR for the Department of Homeland Security is an undermining of our national security,” he said.

Boehner and other GOP leaders since Friday have publicly continued their push for the Senate to launch negotiations with the House to iron out the differences between the chambers’ bills — a strategy that would give House Republicans a chance to add immigration provisions to the Senate’s clean proposal. It is unlikely that the Senate will try to bail the House out of this mess.

Senate Democrats have rejected that strategy, however, and are poised to kill the conference proposal, when a vote to end debate on the bill hits the upper chamber’s floor later today.

That will send things back to the House just about the time of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Speech. Just another day on Capitol Hill.


Jim Williams is the Washington Bureau Chief, Digital Director as well as the Director of Special Projects for Genesis Communications. He is starting his third year as part of the team. This is Williams 40th year in the media business, and in that time he has served in a number of capacities. He is a seven time Emmy Award winning television producer, director, writer and executive. He has developed four regional sports networks, directed over 2,000 live sporting events including basketball, football, baseball hockey, soccer and even polo to name a few sports. Major events include three Olympic Games, two World Cups, two World Series, six NBA Playoffs, four Stanley Cup Playoffs, four NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship Tournaments (March Madness), two Super Bowl and over a dozen college bowl games. On the entertainment side Williams was involved s and directed over 500 concerts for Showtime, Pay Per View and MTV Networks.