UNITED STATES - JULY 15: Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., participates in a discussion with reporters in Rayburn, titled 'Conversations with Conservatives,' at which he and others fielded questions on illegal immigrants attempting to cross the border and other issues, July 15, 2014.National Journal

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal

House conservatives are fed up with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's excuses.

 

It's time, they say, for McConnell to hold the line and pass the House's Department of Homeland Security bill even if that means changing the Senate's rules of debate to break the Democrats' filibuster.

"Mitch McConnell can change the rules of the Senate, and this is important enough to change the rules of the Senate," Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said Thursday morning at Conversations with Conservatives on the Hill.

McConnell's office told National Journal that a rule change is not an option.

Without 60 votes to overcome a procedural hurdle, Republicans in the Senate have struggled to find a way to fund DHS by the Feb. 27 deadline. The main hold up is that House Republicans passed a bill that included language blocking Obama's executive immigration actions. Stuck, Senate Republicans have called on House Speaker John Boehner to send them a new bill immediately. But Boehner has resisted, telling Democrats to "get off their ass." And now a growing chorus in Boehner's right flank are calling on McConnell to work around the rules of the Senate.

"I don't think Mitch McConnell should let the Senate rules trump the Constitution," says Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan.

Changing the rules of the Senate can carry with it dire political consequences. Majority Leader Harry Reid used the so-called nuclear option in the 113th Congress to move Obama's nominees along more quickly and heard an earful from Senate Republicans. If Republicans changed the rules in the Senate, it could exasperate tensions.

But House Republicans don't want to take "no" for an answer.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., says the Senate rules are not "sacrosanct."

The Hill reported Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., delivered a House speech Wednesday that also called on McConnell to use the same political tactics Reid used to push the DHS bill through.

"If Harry Reid and the Democrats can do that, if they can stand up for their beliefs however wrong those beliefs may be, then where is our Republican Senate leadership? And why aren't they doing the same thing?" Brooks said, according to The Hill.

Senators bristled at the suggestion that rules should be changed. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican who has been a vocal advocate against the president's executive action, dismissed the request.

"The Senate rules wisely protect the minority," Cruz said. "The answer I believe is not to change the Senate rules. The answer is for Senate Democrats not to be obstructionists."

Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan also said the rules change was "not an option" that the Senate was considering.

The House conservatives' request underscores the deep divisions between House and Senate Republicans. House Republicans expect Senate Republicans to use their majority, but Senate Republicans argue they are severely limited. They point to the fact that they have already held three votes on the House's DHS bill. Each time it failed.

Conservatives emphasized that if leaders failed to find consensus and funding for DHS lapsed, the consequences might not be as dire as some have made them out to be.

"The impact may be smaller than we think," says Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky. "I am not sure that it is worth it, but we gave up our leverage in the CRomnibus in December... We took a hostage that the president wants to shoot. It is homeland security. This is a conservative thing."

This story is breaking and will be updated.

 

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.