WASHINGTON – House Republicans reversed course Friday night and passed legislation intended to enhance security along the Mexican border and expedite the return of thousands of unaccompanied children who have poured into the country – just a day after party leaders pulled a bill from the floor in response to a conservative uprising.
The two measures that received approval as lawmakers raced to conclude business to begin the start of a month-long August recess are unlikely to become law. The Democrat-controlled Senate, which failed to pass its own immigration bill on Thursday, already has left town and has displayed little interest in even considering the lower chamber’s proposal. And it is opposed by President Obama.
“We all agree that there’s a problem that needs to be solved in a portion of our southern border,” Obama said. “And we even agree on most of the solutions. But instead of working together — instead of focusing on the 80 percent where there is agreement between Democrats and Republicans, between the administration and Congress — House Republicans, as we speak, are trying to pass the most extreme and unworkable versions of a bill that they already know is going nowhere, that can’t pass the Senate and that if it were to pass the Senate I would veto. They know it.”
Obama accused the GOP of “not even trying to actually solve” the border problem and indicated he would act unilaterally to address the ongoing border crisis.
“This is a message bill that they couldn’t quite pull off yesterday, so they made it a little more extreme so maybe they can pass it today — just so they can check a box before they’re leaving town for a month,” he said. “And this is on an issue that they all insisted had to be a top priority.”
The latest version of the border legislation that finally passed Republican muster 223-189 includes $70 million for both the federal government and the states to expend on National Guard assigned along the Rio Grande. Another $400 million goes to the Department of Homeland Security for enhanced border protection while about $200 million is set aside to house undocumented aliens like the unaccompanied children and other “humanitarian assistance.”
It also amends a 2008 law to speed up the deportations of children back to their origination points in Central America. It further prohibits housing the children on military bases if it results in service members being displaced.
One Democrats, Rep. Henry Cuellar, of Texas, sided with the GOP bill while four Republicans voted no – Rep. Paul Broun, of Georgia, Rep. Stephen Fincher, of Tennessee, Rep. Walt Jones, of North Carolina, and Rep. Tom Massie, of Kentucky.
A second measure intended to stop Obama from expanding a program that put an end to deporting some illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. as children – often referred to as DREAMers after the original legislation — also passed.
The price tag comes to about $694 million – $35 million more than called for in the bill yanked off the docket on Thursday. The new measure added additional National Guard funding. And leadership included the bill regarding DREAMer kids to assuage recalcitrant conservatives.