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Rep. Tom Cole: Fund Homeland Security while courts consider immigration

House Republicans struggled Friday to pass a spending bill to keep the Department of Homeland Security open. They ultimately could only get a week-long extension through, meaning they will likely find themselves facing another high-stakes deadline to keep the massive department _ which includes such agencies as the TSA, Border Patrol and FEMA _ from furloughing thousands of workers and making thousands of others work without pay.

The party’s tea party wing is insisting that the spending bill include a prohibition on implementing President Barack Obama’s executive orders against deporting about 4 million illegal immigrants.

Senate Democrats aren’t going to let those provisions get through, so the Senate passed a bill to fund the department through September without them.

If House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, would bring that bill up in the House, he would get overwhelming support from House Democrats and wouldn’t need many Republicans to back it.

That would be the preference of Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, who noted Saturday that a federal judge has already blocked Obama’s immigration initiatives from going into effect.

"Some have expressed concern about consideration of similar bills funding the president's unconstitutional executive action announced in November,” he said in a statement.

“As we remember, the president's plan was intended to provide legal status to millions of illegal immigrants. Since the president unveiled his plan before the American people, 26 states have taken action against the president's overreach and are currently challenging the constitutionality of his executive action. Until the courts come to a decision, the president's plan cannot move forward.

"While I remain deeply opposed to the president's overreach, I do believe it is important to allow the courts to decide the fate, rather than jeopardizing the safety and security of Americans.

“As the United States Congress awaits the decision of the courts, it would be well advised to continue responsibly funding the Department of Homeland Security.”

Oklahoma is one of the states involved in the Texas lawsuit to block Obama’s actions.

If a federal appeals court upholds the injunction blocking Obama’s actions, the issue lawmakers here are fighting over would _ from a practical standpoint _ likely be moot. The spending bill being debated only runs through Sept. 30 and court proceedings could easily drag on for months.

But the administration has shown no sign of relenting on the matter, leaving Republicans to battle among themselves.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, was the only Oklahoman in the House (out of 5) to vote against the short-term funding extensions for the Homeland Security Department.

His position _ and that of 50 other Republicans _ was, in effect, that the department’s funding should expire if the anti-immigration provisions weren’t included.

Bridenstine, a tea party favorite, was among the leaders of House effort two years ago to force a government shutdown over the Affordable Care Act.

He has voted against Boehner for speaker twice. For the current Congress, he voted instead for Texas Republican Louis Gohmert.

Boehner’s moves in the next few days could determine whether the next fight in the House is about him.


Chris Casteel

Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. Casteel covered the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City. From 1990 through 2016, he was the... Read more ›