WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took steps Tuesday to end a stalemate that threatens to shut down the Department of Homeland Security after Senate Democrats blocked a Republican budget proposal for the fourth time.
McConnell, R-Ky., announced he is eliminating controversial immigration amendments from the $39.7 billion Homeland Security funding bill. Instead, he will propose a separate bill that would bar federal funds from being used to carry out President Barack Obama's executive orders that shield millions of undocumented workers from being deported.
If DHS funding is not approved, the department will run out of money at the end of the day Friday, sparking a partial shutdown.
"The new bill I described offers another option we can turn to," McConnell said. "It's another way to get the Senate unstuck from a Democrat filibuster and move the debate forward."
Earlier Tuesday, Senate Democrats successfully blocked the DHS funding bill for the fourth time, in a 47-46 vote, short of the 60 votes needed to move the bill to a final vote.
McConnell said his new proposal would separate the DHS funding debate from controversy on immigration provisions, but it is unclear how Congress will react.
For months, most Republicans have said they will only extend DHS funding if they can block Obama's immigration executive orders. A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the new immigration bill would shine the spotlight on Senate Democrats who would vote against Obama's immigration orders.
"This vote will highlight the irresponsible hypocrisy of any Senate Democrat who claims to oppose President Obama's executive overreach on immigration, but refuses to vote to stop it," spokesman Michael Steel said.
Democrats quickly condemned McConnell's decision, saying it won't prevent a shutdown.
"It's becoming clear Sen. McConnell realizes he must separate himself from the far right, but the bottom line is this proposal doesn't bring us any closer to actually funding DHS, and Republicans still have no real plan to achieve that goal," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement.
A lapse in DHS funding means border guards, airport security officers and Secret Service agents will work without pay, money for rebuilding after natural disasters will be stalled and emergency management preparations, for both natural and man-made disasters, will be slowed. About 30,000 DHS employees will be furloughed and another 240,000 must work without pay because their jobs are considered essential to national security.
"A shutdown of Homeland Security would have serious consequences and amount to a serious disruption in our ability to protect the homeland," Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Monday.
Adding to the rancor of the debate, the Justice Department on Monday asked for an emergency court order to allow Obama's immigration action to move forward, arguing that halting the president's executive orders would threaten national security.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen granted a preliminary injunction against the executive action on Feb. 17.