On their last scheduled day in session before leaving for August recess, House Republican leaders pulled legislation to address the border crisis after conservatives criticized the proposal for failing to address the problem.
Wary of leaving town without addressing the border crisis, lawmakers planned to stay in Washington, D.C., Friday to resolve the split among members in hopes of passing a spending bill intended to slow a surge of illegal immigration into the country.
The Democrat-controlled Senate, meanwhile, failed to adopt a border spending bill Thursday.
In a statement, House Speaker John Boehner addressed the dilemma facing Republicans:
This situation shows the intense concern within our conference 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. We will continue to work on solutions to the border crisis and other challenges facing our country.
Crucially, to some conservatives, the spending plan does not include language to address President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which delays deportation for certain immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children.
“You have to address DACA,” says @DanHoller, communications director for @Heritage Action
That program, created by Obama through executive action in 2012, “defers action” against illegal immigrants who have continuously resided in the United States since 2007 and who came to the country before their 16th birthday.
Conservatives believe Central American families misinterpret that legislation as a free pass into the United States, leading parents to send their unaccompanied children on a dangerous journey through Mexico over the border into Texas.
“Our point of contention is that no matter what you put in the bills, you have to address DACA,” said Dan Holler, communications director for Heritage Action for America, the lobbying arm of The Heritage Foundation. “The House leadership has tried to address that point with a separate vote, but it contains weaker language than what some wanted. People abroad see DACA as a way to get legal status.”
In a signal to the resistance to the border spending plan, House leadership planned to hold a second vote on a separate bill that would stop DACA, but only if the emergency funding legislation won passage.
Believing he did not have enough votes to pass the pared-down $659 million emergency spending measure, Boehner pulled the legislation from consideration Thursday afternoon.
The House spending plan, short of of the $2.7 billion that Senate Democrats proposed and the $3.7 billion that Obama had requested, would beef up border security and speed the deportation of Central American children migrating to the U.S. illegally—achieved by changing a 2008 law intended to combat human trafficking.
Those who supported the House plan seemed to do so reluctantly.
“There is nothing in the bill that I am opposed to,” Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., told The Daily Signal. “It does not go far enough. Maybe when we control the Senate we can go further.”
The White House, and other critics, quickly pounced on House Republicans’ indecision.
And by pulling their own bill, the House GOP once again proves why the President must act on his own to solve problems
— Dan Pfeiffer (@pfeiffer44) July 31, 2014
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican who recently deployed 1,000 National Guard troops to his state’s border to address the crisis, was among those who decried Congress’ inaction.
“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,” Perry said in a statement. “Congress should not go into recess until the job is completed.”