Hours From Deadline, Still No Agreement to Avoid Homeland Dept. Shutdown

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Speaker of the House John Boehner arrives to speak at a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on February 26, 2015. Conservative Republicans urged him not to capitulate in a fight with Democrats over President Barack Obama's immigration policy that threatens a partial Homeland Security Department shutdown. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

After weeks of arguing in the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats have still not been able to compromise to pass a bill that would provide funding to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Unless they can reach an agreement by midnight Friday, the DHS will be forced to furlough a portion of its employees. Many more will work without pay.

The DHS funding bill has become a battleground in the fight over illegal immigration, with conservative Republicans refusing to vote for a bill that doesn't include language rolling back President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration, and Democrats refusing to vote for a bill that does.

Republicans in the House have led the charge. "There is no way on God's green Earth that I am going to fund illegal conduct," Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama told CNN.

Ohio Republican Jim Jordan told CNN, "No one wants a shutdown—we've said that time and time again. But we also took an oath to uphold the Constitution, and we know in our hearts this is unconstitutional."

House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have tried over the past week to appease the conservative wing of their party. On Monday night, McConnell announced he would bring a separate bill to the Senate floor to address Obama's executive actions, hoping such a bill would appease conservatives and allow a so-called "clean" funding bill to pass on its own. A clean version of the bill passed the Senate 98-2 on Wednesday. But some Republicans called McConnell's maneuver a surrender.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has said failure to find the DHS will cause "terrible disruption" to everyday Americans, The Washington Post reports.

Most DHS workers won't be furloughed in the event Congress fails to pass a bill—around 85 percent of the DHS's 300,000 employees are considered "essential" by the agency. During the 2013 government shutdown, about two-thirds of DHS workers were not furloughed but did not receive pay.

Border security agents, Transportation Security Administration screeners, members of the Coast Guard and others will be expected to report to work, though they may not receive paychecks, which could affect productivity, Juliette Kayyem, a former DHS assistant secretary, told Public Radio International.

In fact, almost all of the DHS's branches would continue to function, including those responsible for processing visas and immigration and naturalization requests—which means that even if Republicans succeed in de-funding the DHS, Obama's executive actions on immigration will take effect. That hasn't stopped them from trying, though.

Obama, meanwhile, has stood firm, criticizing the Republicans' position in a town hall address Wednesday in Florida.

"Instead of trying to hold hostage funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which is so important for our national security, fund that and let's get on with passing comprehensive immigration reform," he said.