House Republican leaders pulled a border supplemental bill and said they wouldn’t adjourn for the summer recess as planned today as they tried to scrape more votes together for the $659 million legislation.
Most Democrats oppose the bill because, in the words of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) at her press conference today, it “is so bad, but is not bad enough for some of their outside groups to whom they pander.”
“And so in order to sweeten the pie for them and intensify the harm for the children, they have added another bill to follow the supplemental that they have on the floor, the supplemental that does not track humanitarian assistance, due process, assistance to repatriate these children back to their own countries in a safe way. It only tracks more on the border without helping to resolve the humanitarian challenge that we have,” Pelosi said.
GOP leaders tried to rally votes for the funding supplemental by promising a separate vote to block any expansion of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“This situation shows the intense concern within our conference – and among the American people – about the need to ensure the security of our borders and the president’s refusal to faithfully execute our laws. There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), and Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said in a statement.
It’s the first major test of the new leadership team as Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) stepped down from the majority leader post this morning, drawing tears from Boehner and words of praise from both sides of the aisle.
“For the past month, the House has been engaged in intensive efforts to pass legislation that would compel the president to do his job and ensure it can be done as quickly and compassionately as possible,” the GOP leaders’ statement continued. “Through an inclusive process, a border bill was built by listening to members and the American people that has the support not just of a majority of the majority in the House, but most of the House Republican Conference. We will continue to work on solutions to the border crisis and other challenges facing our country.”
The bill provides supplemental funding to the departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Defense, and Health and Human Services to deal with the influx of illegal immigrant children at the southern border. It also amends the 2008 law that has led to extended amnesty and deportation proceedings for those coming from non-contiguous countries and prohibits the Interior Department from restricting Border Patrol activities on federal lands.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) gathered a group of House conservatives in his office over Dr. Pepper, pizza and Skittles on Wednesday night to lobby against the bill, Roll Call reported. Thirteen lawmakers showed up: Reps. Steve King of Iowa, Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan, Steve Stockman of Texas, Randy Neugebauer of Texas, Paul Broun of Georgia, Todd Rokita of Indiana, John Fleming of Louisiana, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, and Tim Huelskamp of Kansas.
Cruz wanted the language on ending the deferred enforcement program for young illegal immigrants included in the main bill.
Other reports indicated that Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) had greater pull with House conservatives and shepherded the downfall of the bill.
The House Rules Committee met after the bill was yanked and passed a same-day authority to move any border bill through the lower chamber quickly. A floor vote could come late Thursday or Friday, or the session could be pushed into recess next week.
“It’s beyond belief that Congress is abandoning its post while our border crisis continues to create humanitarian suffering, and criminal aliens still represent a clear threat to our citizens and our nation,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement. “While Texas has taken what steps it can to mitigate the damage caused by a porous border, Congress and the president have a duty to address our border security issues without further delay. Congress should not go into recess until the job is completed.”
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said he and other lawmakers including Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) were due to leave this evening for a tour of the Texas border.
“I guess it is harder to take candy from children than they thought. The Republicans planned to pass a bill to deport children quickly and take away protections from deportation that the president extended to children raised in the U.S., but it didn’t work out as planned. They just couldn’t go far enough over the anti-immigrant ledge to satisfy enough of the GOP conference to get a majority,” Gutierrez said in a statement.
“The number of kids who have come to this country from Central America fleeing violence could all fit in Soldier Field with room to spare, yet about 60,000 kids have made adult American legislators lose their marbles,” he continued. “They could not agree on how to deport them fast enough and the Democrats were not going to let a decade or more of progress in improving our asylum and human trafficking laws get thrown out for election year politics.”