House Republican leaders flooded the Sunday TV talk shows, seeking to battle widespread criticism after an internal revolt by the party's most conservative wing nearly cut off funding Friday for the agencies that protect the nation's borders, ports, airports and other key areas.
But the leaders also promised to continue trying to use funding of the Department of Homeland Security to try to force President Obama to back down on executive actions that could defer deportations of several million immigrants who are in the country illegally.
Money for the department is set to run out again this Friday, a week after Congress narrowly averted a shutdown by approving a seven-day stopgap funding bill.
But GOP leaders offered no certain path forward to avoid a continued standoff and a repeat of the rebuke they faced from their own members.
"I made it clear we were going to do everything we could to block the president's executive overreach," House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "Republicans are united in this idea that the president has far exceeded his executive authority, and we all want to do things to stop the president from this illicit activity."
While Obama's plan is tied up in court, members of the GOP's leadership are trying to cut funding as the best chance to stop the new program, which would allow immigrants to apply to legally work, go to school and otherwise remain in the country for the next few years.
But Boehner and his team have been unable to manage the fight within their own caucus. More than 50 Republicans rejected the speaker's proposal last week for a three-week funding bill that would have provided time for negotiations.
The disarray was a damaging political setback for the embattled speaker and his team, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the majority whip.
"Could we have done better Friday? Yes. And will we? Yes, we will," McCarthy said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
In the Senate, GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has already abandoned the strategy of linking the money bill to the immigration battle. The Senate approved a full-year Homeland Security funding bill last week with no strings attached.
But Scalise said he hopes the Senate would vote to form a conference committee between the two chambers to work out their different approaches.
"The way Congress works is, when the House and Senate have a disagreement, you go to conference," Scalise said. He encouraged conservative activists to "light up" the Senate switchboard to pressure senators to vote.
But Democrats in the Senate are likely to filibuster that move Monday. They are happy to have the immigration debate, but not as part of the funding bill for the department that oversees border patrol, airport screenings and other critical responsibilities.
Some Republicans and Democrats note that after the Senate approved a bipartisan immigration overhaul in 2013, the House declined to pass its own bill and conservatives resisted going to conference -- contributing to the current standoff.
Boehner, who faces continued challenges to his role as leader, was asked Sunday if he still liked his job.
"Most days," Boehner said. "Last Friday wasn't all that fun.... It was just messy. And I don't like messy."
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