WASHINGTON - The deadly attack in Paris this week is complicating Republican lawmakers' plans to force a showdown with President Barack Obama over funding for the sprawling government agency that spearheads US counterterrorism efforts.
Several prominent Republicans said on Thursday there should be no interruption in funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which is tasked with preventing attacks on US soil and with securing the country's borders, airports and coastal waters.
The agency's funding expires on Feb. 27. Republican leaders had planned to use the deadline as leverage to challenge Obama's new programme shielding millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Such a move would likely draw a White House veto, risking a cut-off in DHS funding.
Some moderate Republicans said they need to tread carefully on DHS funding after Wednesday's attack by two Islamist gunmen killed 12 at the offices of the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo. "I'm against the executive order, and we should stop it, fine, but we cannot in any way weaken our homeland security funding when it comes to counterterrorism," said Representative Peter King, a senior Republican member of the House Homeland Security committee. "You can't afford to cut back US$1 (S$1.34)." House Speaker John Boehner will hold a closed-door meeting with Republican lawmakers on Friday to discuss handling of the DHS funding deadline.
Boehner told a news conference that the House "will soon take action" aimed at stopping Obama's executive order but gave no details, other than to say this would not put DHS funding at risk.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers said the plan was still under discussion, though he hopes to introduce a bill on Friday that seeks to fully meet the Obama administration's DHS funding request while blocking implementation of the immigration order. He acknowledged that it would risk a veto. "We're going to pass a bill here that very adequately funds Homeland Security," Rogers said. If Obama "sees fit to veto that, he has to take on the onus of the being the one that shut down Homeland Security." Another plan would use a stand-alone bill to block funds from being spent to implement the immigration order.
Republican Representative Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina conservative, said the Paris attack showed the need for Homeland Security funding but Congress should still "send a message" to Obama on immigration. "I don't think the two are mutually exclusive," he added.