House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio returns to his office on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 3, 2015.
J. Scott Applewhite—AP
March 3, 2015 4:33 PM EST

The Republican leadership in the House of Representatives clipped the wings of conservatives Tuesday, passing a bill on the backs of Democrats to keep the Department of Homeland Security open through September.

“It’s our only choice left,” said Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, a member of the whip team. “We exhausted every other.”

In a “surreal” meeting Tuesday morning, House Speaker John Boehner laid out the plan to silent members, according to New York GOP Rep. Peter King.

“Nobody says a word,” said King. “It seemed like two hours, it was probably a minute, but that’s a long time when the Speaker is up there saying ‘Any questions … any questions … any questions?’”

Boehner did receive a standing ovation in the meeting after Colorado GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn changed the topic, praising his leadership in the face of White House criticism for inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before Congress. The White House was not consulted before the invitation and Susan Rice, the White House National Security Advisor, has said that the speech would be “destructive” to U.S.-Israel relations.

Conservatives had led the DHS strategy since mid-December, when Congress passed a short-term funding plan to appease Republicans who wanted to protest Obama’s executive actions on immigration when they controlled the Senate majority. Faced with a midnight deadline on Friday, Republicans kicked the can another week to avert a partial government shutdown that would have put 30,000 employees on furlough.

House Republicans passed a bill over a month ago that would have stripped funding for Obama’s November action deferring deportation for up to five million immigrants who came to the country illegally and for another program that granted deportation relief to hundreds of thousands of young undocumented workers who came to the country as children. Over the past several weeks, it became abundantly clear — if it ever was in doubt — that the bill never had a chance in the Senate to get the necessary 60 votes to send the bill to Obama.

But with conservatives still furious at what they call the president’s executive overreach, and a recent federal court injunction in their favor, the House Republican leadership decided to pass a so-called “clean” bill that did not protest Obama’s actions and hope for the courts to accomplish their mission. Netanyahu’s speech to Congress Tuesday provided the perfect media cover for the Republican leadership to announce the change in strategy.

Some conservatives are now talking about overthrowing the current House Republican leadership, although that situation is very unlikely.

“There was 167 that voted against this deal,” says Republican Rep. Marlin Stuzman of Indiana. “I’m sure there will be conversations about how we got to where we are. We basically put Senate rules over the Constitution today.”

“A good number of Republicans decided they just wanted to get the fight over and move on,” acknowledges Stuzman.

Democrats ridiculed the Republicans for putting forward a bill that Democrats advocated for months ago.

“How about that,” said Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois. “No time at all.”

Contact us at

Read More From TIME

Related Stories