It's not that the short-term funding plan has many fans on the Democratic side of the aisle. Leaders, rank-and-file members and even Cabinet officials have warned that using a CR as an escape hatch would not be without consequences. Such a bill, whether it stretched for weeks or months, would preserve DHS funding at existing levels, while prolonging uncertainty within the agency over whether a shutdown is imminent.
"This is not a question of just, 'a CR is harmless,'" House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said earlier this month. "It will impede effective things that the Department of Homeland Security needs to do to keep America secure. "¦ A CR would not be a way that responsibly this ought to be handled. The Republicans, if they make such a deal, it will be a very cynical deal which undermines the security of America."
Meanwhile, Homeland Security Department Secretary Jeh Johnson has issued a series of statements outlining the programs that would be put on hold if Congress funds the agency with a CR instead of a full-year bill. "As long as DHS is funded by a CR, there are a whole series of activities vital to homeland security and public safety that cannot be undertaken," he said.
But despite those qualms, Democrats may not get the chance to vote on an alternative. "I think we're going to have a CR," Rep. Henry Cuellar said in an interview last week. "I think that's going to be the endgame, unfortunately."
If and when the GOP resorts to that option, Democrats will at least be able to say they protected Obama's immigration order from being rolled back as part of the agency's funding.
Left unsaid is that Democrats have spent the past few months claiming that a DHS shutdown would make the country vulnerable to terrorist attacks, so voting against a bill that would avert that shutdown—even if only briefly—would be a risky political move.
Asked earlier this month about the possibility of a CR, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi declined to give her position, instead questioning why Republicans would resort to such a tactic. "You're asking if I could support a CR; I don't know what the CR is," she said. "But if it preserves the president's prerogatives and funds Homeland Security, why are they going that route?"
While Democrats may claim incredulity at the GOP's strategy, they see political advantages emerging for themselves. "Even though [a CR] does have an awful impact, it does have the additional benefit of putting them in another bad place at another date certain," said the senior Democratic aide.
That's because Democrats believe the public will blame Republicans if and when the funding fight comes to a head, as it did during the 2013 government shutdown. Under that mindset, allowing the debate to rage again when the CR nears its expiration date forces the GOP to again confront a politically damaging issue.
"History would tell us that Republicans would get more blame than Democrats," Cuellar said. "The Democratic message is going to be the winning one.