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Homeland Security Budget Caught Up In Immigration Politics


And keeping America safe is important to both parties. The attacks in Paris last week gave new momentum to a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security. The House is expected to approve that bill and vote today. But that won't necessarily put an end to the effort to fund this key agency because the funding is tied into the controversial issue of immigration. NPR's Brian Naylor explains.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: The House bill provides nearly $40 billion for homeland security, a $400 million increase over current spending levels. There would be more money for the Border Patrol, for the Secret Service, for new Coast Guard patrol ships. The catch is House Republicans are also using the bill to overturn the president's actions on immigration, among them, last month's action allowing close family members of people now in the U.S. legally to stay. His 2012 program allowing children who were brought by their parents to the U.S. illegally to stay would also be overturned. But House Speaker John Boehner maintains the Republicans' motives have nothing to do with immigration.


REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER: We're voting to block the president's overreach, his executive overreach, which I believe is beyond his constitutional duty and frankly violates the Constitution itself. This is not about - this is not about actually the issue of immigration. What it is, it's about the president acting lawlessly.

NAYLOR: That's not quite how the White House sees it. Spokesman Josh Earnest used some plain language to say the White House supports the funding parts of the bill but not the rest.

JOSH EARNEST: Unfortunately, Republicans have also unveiled plans to muck around with that legislation. This is legislation that funds our efforts to protect our ports and our borders. It provides aviation security. It bolsters our cybersecurity. There's never a good time for Republicans to do something like this. But right now seems like a particularly bad time for them to do so.

NAYLOR: If the House GOP bill overturning the president's executive actions on immigration reached the president's desk, it's all but certain he'll veto it. But it's highly unlikely the measure will get that far. The bill will need 60 votes to pass in the Senate, meaning some Democrats will have to support it along with nearly all Republicans, and that's not likely to happen. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi calls the Republicans' bill frivolous.


REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: What are they thinking? Paris, the world is galvanized on security but not the House Republicans.

NAYLOR: Even if the White House and Congress can't agree on funding DHS, effects of a shutdown would be limited. The agency that implements the president's immigration orders doesn't rely on congressional funds but rather fees to pay its workers. The Secret Service, Boarder Patrol and TSA screeners are considered essential and would remain on their jobs but without paychecks. Congress and the White House have until the end of next month to work this all out. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.