TIME Congress

Homeland Security Goes on Offense for Fight With Congress

US Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson listens while US President Barack Obama makes a statement to the press after a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Oct. 6, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images US Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson listens while US President Barack Obama makes a statement to the press after a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Oct. 6, 2014 in Washington, DC.

The Obama Administration made a last-minute public plea for Congress to fund the Department of Homeland Security, sending Secretary Jeh Johnson on a tour of political talk shows Sunday.

As the deadline approaches for the department’s funding, Johnson echoed the administration line that Congress should simply fund the department without conditions.

Republicans in Congress hoped to attach language to the funding bill that would override Obama’s decision to defer deportations for millions in the U.S. illegally — an idea that both Senate Democrats and the president have rejected.

Johnson used appearances on all five Sunday morning political talk shows to press his case:

• On CNN’s State of the Union, he said it was “absurd that we are even having this conversation,” while noting that some 30,000 employees would have to be furloughed as a result of the fight.

• On Fox News Sunday, he called Congress’s effort to block the executive action on immigration through a funding fight is “unacceptable from a public safety, national security view.”

• On ABC’s This Week, he said funding the agency is “imperative” amid the new threats from terrorist groups like al-Shabaab, which this weekend reportedly threatened an attack on Minneapolis’s Mall of America.

• On CBS’s Face the Nation, he said things from cyber-security to the harsh conditions the nation would be affected if “headquarter staff is narrowed down to a skeleton.”

• On NBC’s Meet the Press, he said flat out, “we need Congress to fund the Department of Homeland Security,” listing people and programs that would be placed in jeopardy if funding runs out on Friday.

The five talk-show effort — known in Beltway circles as the “full Ginsburg” after the first person to attempt it — was a sign of how seriously the White House intends to press its advantage on the dispute with Congress. Polls show the majority of Americans would blame Congress if the agency shuts down.

While that would be a public relations disaster, it’s unclear if it would really affect national security much.

The majority of Department of Homeland Security staff would still report for duty—from TSA agents at airports to the men and women of the Coast Guard—but they wouldn’t be receiving a paycheck.

Some Republicans have argued that they should call off the funding fight, given a Texas judge’s decision last week to temporarily block the Administration from going ahead with the deferrals.

Sen. John McCain called the Texas decision an “exit sign” on Face the Nation on Sunday, while Sen. Lindsey Graham called on Republicanson This Week to back the legal challenge to the executive action rather than blocking funding.

“The worst possible outcome for this nation would be to defund the Department of Homeland Security given the multiple threats we face to our homeland and I will not be part of that,” Graham said, adding that Republicans being the face of the partial shutdown would “add gasoline to the fire.”

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