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Congress funds Homeland Security with Obama’s immigration action intact

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WASHINGTON – The House gave final approval Tuesday to a “clean” Department of Homeland Security budget after months of political squabbling and just days before a second deadline that would have shut the agency down.

The bill provides funding for DHS through the end of the fiscal year and does not try to overturn President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration, which had been stalling the budget before.

The House voted 257-167, with every House Democrat and 75 Republicans voting for the measure. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Tucson, was one of the Republicans to cross the aisle and the only GOP lawmaker from Arizona to vote for the bill.

In a statement, McSally said she believes Obama’s executive actions are unconstitutional but that Congress should not challenge the president’s authority at the expense of national security.

“The first and highest priority of the federal government is to keep Americans safe, and, right now, we face greater threats to our country than I’ve ever seen,” McSally’s statement said. “Allowing funding for our critical homeland security assets to lapse would not only be irresponsible and harm many families in Southern Arizona, it would put our national security at risk at an increasingly dangerous time.”

But other Republicans said passage of a DHS budget that allows the president’s actions to proceed was “disappointing” and “destructive.”

“I am extremely disappointed that Congress had a choice to stand against a lawless and unaccountable Obama administration, but failed to have the fortitude to reject the president’s overreach,” said Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, in a statement.

Congress took DHS to the brink of shutdown Friday before passing an emergency extension funding the department through the end of this week. At issue were the president’s executive actions, which would proctect more than 4 million immigrants from deportation, among other provisions.

The House passed a budget in January that funded DHS, but stripped out funding for the president’s actions. But that bill stalled in the Senate, where Democrats refused to let it come up for a vote.

Senate Republicans last week relented and amended the bill to remove the restrictions on the president’s actions, sending the “clean” budget bill back to the House. After refusing to accept the bill last week, the House approved it Tuesday.

“I hope Republicans learned their lesson,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, in a statement after the vote. “We should never play games with our national security or with the well-being of our country.”

While the vote marked a victory for House Democrats, critics said it allowed an unconstitutional overreach by the president.

“Today, the House voted on a bill to fund our Department of Homeland Security. In doing so, it also voted to fund an unconstitutional action: the president’s edicts on immigration,” said Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Mesa, in a statement.

But Democrats said that government funding should not be held “hostage” in the discussion over immigration reform.

“Republicans should work with us to pass immigration reform that is good for our economy and keeps families together,” Gallego said. “That is the ultimate long-term solution for how to deal with an immigration system that badly needs to be overhauled.”

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, said in a statement that voters expect Congress to do its job.

“Our constituents deserve leaders who find practical, commonsense solutions to our country’s most pressing issues,” her statement said.

McSally pledged to work on bipartisan solutions to “improve security along our border, fix our broken immigration system and make our communities safer.”

“Congress needs to do its job by securing our border and revamping our legal immigration system so it aligns with our economic needs,” her statement said.