RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And in Washington, D.C., some Republican legislators were hoping for a big moment this week. They wanted to use a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security to fight President Obama's executive actions on immigration. But after weeks of uncertainty, House Speaker John Boehner pushed through what's known as a clean funding bill. That is one with no immigration provisions attached. At the end of the day, House conservatives did not undo President Obama's immigration policies. But they did strain a House staffer's voice. NPR's Juana Summers reports.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
SUSAN COLE: (Reading) Senate amendment, strike all after the first word and insert the following...
JUANA SUMMERS, BYLINE: Susan Cole is the House reading clerk. That means exactly what you think it does. She read bills, amendments, motions and messages that come before the House. Every bill and amendment that comes to the floor for a vote must be read - technically. But usually, members dispense with the reading to speed up the process. But this bill was different. This is the bill that was supposed to dismantle the president's actions on immigration. Instead, it was not going to mention that issue at all. This angered conservatives, like Kentucky Republican Thomas Massie, who objected to speeding up anything. And that meant Cole had to keep reading for nearly 20 minutes.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
COLE: (Reading) Shall be for official reception and representation expenses...
SUMMERS: Ultimately, Massie withdrew his objection, and Cole was able to stop. The bill passed. And it is now headed to President Obama's desk for his signature. It was an anti-climactic end to a challenge to the president's immigration policy that brought the Department of Homeland Security to the brink of a shutdown just last week. Louisiana Republican John Fleming was among those who wanted to push the fight.
So how did it end like this?
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN FLEMING: How did we end up with a - kind of a slow demise, you mean, as a result - even after a very hefty kind of rhetoric?
FLEMING: Well, (laughter) apparently that's the way it's done around here. I don't agree with it. I don't think we should be bluffing anybody. I think we should be out there saying what we're going to do and do what we're going to - do what we're saying.
SUMMERS: Earlier in the day, House Speaker John Boehner met with Republicans and told them he was planning to hold a vote on a clean funding bill. He outlined the three options he had available - first, to shut down the Department of Homeland Security, which would have run out of funding in three days - second, to pass another short-term bill to fund the department and buy more time - third, to pass the clean bill that had already passed the Senate. Boehner took option three. Conservatives, like Steve King of Iowa, were not happy.
REPRESENTATIVE STEVE KING: The tone that I've picked up, especially this Congress - previous Congress, too - is that leadership seems to be - well, and in this case, is more inclined to work with the other side than with conservatives on some of these issues.
SUMMERS: To King's point, while this was a bitter loss for conservatives, it was a win for House Democrats, who said they would support no bill that wouldn't fully fund the Homeland Security Department. Less than a third of Republicans voted for the DHS bill. The take away, Republican Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina put it this way.
REPRESENTATIVE MICK MULVANEY: We are going to be much more willing to judge our leadership by their actions than by their words going forward.
SUMMERS: And they won't have to wait very long to put that to the test. Congress is already gearing up for a series of big legislative battles on the formula for paying Medicare doctors, making sure that the federal Highway Trust Fund doesn't run out of money and dealing with the debt ceiling. Juana Summers, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.