WASHINGTON — The next deadline to avoid a Homeland Security Department shutdown is days away, with no clear sign a deal is close at hand.
House Speaker John Boehner and his lieutenants, stung by a conservative rebellion last week, pressed ahead Sunday with a strategy based on opening formal negotiations with the Senate on a compromise.
That's been a nonstarter for Senate Democrats, the minority party but with enough numbers to stand their ground and insist on funding the agency through September without acceding to House Republican demands to roll back Obama's immigration policies.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and fellow Democrats have little incentive to give Republican leaders what they want. Democrats risk losing bargaining power and getting a bill they don't support that much closer to the president's desk.
"This has been the custom of the Senate and the House of Representatives for almost 200 years," Boehner said. "We want to get a conference with the Senate."
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the No. 2 House Republican, said the best thing for the country is for the two sides to sit down together.
"I will tell you from the majority leader of the House, I will be in that room and I will help solve that problem," the California Republican said. "All we need is Harry Reid to say the same thing and this can all go away and be solved."
Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, said GOP leaders were doing their best to shift the blame for "their dangerous internal chaos" when they should be taking up a bill to fully fund the agency.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she doesn't envision Senate Democrats allowing the immigration language to be part of the spending bill because they support a so-called clean bill— one focused exclusively on funding for the department.
"We want a clean bill. We have passed, taken votes on a clean bill. It's well known," Feinstein said. "And, I see nothing else happening, other than a clean bill."
An agreement allowed a one-week spending bill to pass only hours before a threatened shutdown Friday, and President Barack Obama quickly sign it.
But that followed a stunning defeat of a three-week spending bill that Boehner supported.
The deal that led to the one-week funding of the agency required Pelosi's support. She assured fellow Democrats that the last-minute vote would clear the way to take up this coming week a full-year spending bill — without the language rolling back Obama's immigration policies.
Boehner said Sunday the only commitment to Pelosi — and Republicans — was that he would follow "regular order," meaning that the sides would agree to enter formal negotiations.
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the No. 3 House Republican, said he's not giving up on getting Senate Democrats on board. He urged the American people to "light up the Senate switchboard and make those Senate Democrats feel the heat who have been standing with the president on his illegal actions."
But, Republican Peter King of New York who is the former chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said that although he disagrees with the president's immigration policies, the House should move forward with a vote to fund the agency, without the immigration provisions.
For members to "be threatening to defund the Department of Homeland Security at a time when our threat has ... never been greater at any time since 9/11, it's absolutely irresponsible," King said.
Boehner spoke on the CBS' "Face the Nation," McCarthy appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press," Scalise was on "Fox News Sunday" and Feinstein made her comments on CNN's "State of the Union."
Associated Press writers Michele Salcedo and Tom Strong contributed to this report.