"We're waiting on the Senate to act," said Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry, exiting a leadership meeting. "We'll see what the Senate's able to produce and we'll react in kind."
Boehner's past offers little clear guidance on his next move; over the last several years, he has chosen disparate paths when presented with a fork in the road. In 2013, despite his own admission that it was not his chosen strategy, he capitulated to members' demands that they shut down the government over objections to funding President Obama's health care law. Before that, however, he and his team crafted solutions on a bipartisan basis to avoid a default on the nation's debt, despite pressure from some in his conference to keep fighting.
A group of House conservatives is privately mulling blocking the House's ability to vote on any clean DHS funding bill by opposing the rule—a move that would especially anger GOP leaders who view such rule votes as a basic test of party loyalty. Outside conservative groups, such as Heritage Action, have said they will consider a "Yea" vote a black mark on members' legislative scorecards. And late Tuesday, several Republicans, led by Rep. Jeff Duncan, sent a letter to Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Majority Whip Steve Scalise urging them to continue to stand firm against what they call Obama's executive overreach.
"The Legislative Branch has a responsibility to use its exclusive and constitutionally-granted authority to prevent the President's unlawful usurpation of power, without waiting for a final interpretation from the Judicial Branch," the letter read. "District Court rulings can be overturned, but the power of the purse is absolute."
McConnell and Boehner are dealing with two very different realities. The new Senate majority leader has just 54 members to work with and will need six Democrats to join them in order to pass anything through the upper chamber and return it to the House. After trying to follow the House's lead over the last two months, in a strategy one of his own senior members called "the definition of insanity," McConnell struck out on his own Tuesday.
"Our friends in the House have been saying it's up to the Senate. And they're right," McConnell told reporters Tuesday, pivoting rhetorically. "I mean, because Senate Democrats have been preventing us from going forward on the DHS bill."
McConnell's new plan is to have a separate vote to defund Obama's executive action, giving Democrats—who have filibustered previous attempts to pass a bill keeping DHS open—the clean funding bill they've been asking for.
The plan will ensure that DHS is funded before the deadline, and could well attract the necessary Democratic votes on the anti-executive order measure as well. At least nine Democrats have indicated a level of discomfort with Obama's executive action and, Republicans hope, at least six of them will vote for the standalone bill. Already, Sens. Claire McCaskill and Joe Manchin have said they will vote to allow Republicans to move forward with the immigration bill, though McCaskill is undecided on the actual legislation.