House Border Bill In Doubt In Face of Tea Party Opposition
With mere hours left before Congress heads out of town, the House of Representatives is set to vote later today on a bill that is supposedly intended to address the ongoing border crisis created by the arrival of Central American migrants at the southern border. At some $650 million, the House bill is but a fraction of the $3.7 billion in emergency funding that the President has requested to deal with the crisis, and it is far below even the roughly $2.5 billion that a parallel bill in the Senate contemplates authorizing. However, even this bill is in doubt thanks to opposition from Tea Party groups and their supporters in the House GOP Caucus:
The fate of a Republican proposal to address a brewing immigration crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border was cast into doubt Wednesday after a tea party senator lobbied against it to House members.
The effort by Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), who made his pitch to a group of House Republicans in a closed-door evening meeting, marked another direct shot at attempts by Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to deal with the influx of illegal immigrants arriving from Central America.
House members are preparing to vote Thursday on border legislation that would provide considerably less money than President Obama is seeking, while the Senate is moving forward with a larger Democratic proposal. With two competing border measures and little agreement between House and Senate leaders, figuring out how to pay for the unexpected surge is unlikely to be resolved before Congress’s summer recess begins Friday.
Even so, a defeat of border legislation in the House would deliver another embarrassing blow to Boehner and his leadership team, which has struggled to contain the party’s restive tea party caucus. It also would serve as the latest example of Cruz wading into House affairs and working against the agenda of GOP leaders.
“The Obama White House should put Ted Cruz on the payroll,” said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), a vocal Cruz opponent. “We have a chance to pass a good bill, not a perfect bill. Boehner is working hard to get to 218 votes and yet there is Ted Cruz, telling us to do nothing. If he wants to come over and run for speaker, that’s fine, but otherwise he should stay over there in the Senate.”
Boehner has not promised victory on the immigration bill, suggesting Tuesday that Republicans had “a little more work to do.” With most Democrats expected to vote against the measure, Boehner needs every GOP vote he can find and has been busy trying to win support from Reps. Steve King (Iowa), Louie Gohmert (Tex.), Matt Salmon (Ariz.) and other conservatives.
At a conference meeting Tuesday, Boehner announced that he would pare down his initial framework after hearing numerous complaints about its size and scope. On Thursday morning, he will meet again with GOP members to underscore the importance of passing his plan and giving the party a document that shows its ability to find consensus.
But Steve King, Gohmert and Salmon — along with Cruz and others — want House Republicans to defund Obama’s Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program, which has granted temporary relief for some children of illegal immigrants and is set for renewal this fall. Boehner has resisted the idea. But late Wednesday, GOP aides said that leaders were likely to allow a vote on a standalone bill that would defund DACA before voting to approve the border spending measure. If the bill to defund DACA were to pass, it wasn’t clear exactly how House leaders would merge the two proposals and send them to the Senate.
“The only way to stop the border crisis is to stop Obama’s amnesty,” Cruz said in a statement. “It is disappointing the border security legislation unveiled today does not include language to end Obama’s amnesty. Congress cannot hope to solve this problem without addressing the fundamental cause of it.”
I noted earlier this month that Ted Cruz had said that he was willing to block any immigration bill that didn’t include language defunding the President’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is the set of 2012 Executive Branch decisions that granted what some have called “amnesty” to certain children of illegal immigrants, albeit on a temporary basis. As the article notes, he’s lived up to that promise by actively campaigning against the very border bill backed by the House Republican Leadership. This, of course, is roughly the same thing that he did last year during the government shutdown last September. At that time, as we neared the closing days and hours of the Fiscal Year and appeared headed for a shutdown, Cruz was working behind the scenes to defeat the bill that the House Leadership had come up with to avert a shutdown, an effort that ended up proving to be successful. Cruz is joined in that effort by conservative pundits and several Tea Party groups, none of whom have actually come up with an alternative proposal of their own that could realistically be considered something that would address the problems on the southern border caused by this new influx of immigrants.
In reality, of course, even if the House bill did pass later today it’s unlikely that we’ll end up with any kind of legislation that the President would be able to sign before members leave on their five week August vacation. As I noted, the Senate bill is significantly different from the one that the House is considering, and it may not even survive its final cloture vote to get to a vote on the merits. If it did, though, the differences between the bills the two chambers are considering is so profound that it’s unlikely that they’d be able to come to any kind of agreement before Congress adjourns for vacation; and there’s pretty much no chance at all that either chamber would be willing to postpone their departure from Washington to deal with the matter. Given that, it is likely that we will end up with no bill at all to deal with the border crisis at the same time that the Federal Government is essentially trying to find money in other programs that it can divert to border-related expenditures between now and the end of the Fiscal Year. Meanwhile, of course, the same Tea Party Members of Congress that are blocking any action at all on this issue will spend their recess back in their home districts campaigning against the President who is allegedly not doing anything on immigration.
This is what our political system has been reduced to, and it is really is quite pathetic.
Update: As of 3:30pm this afternoon at least, the House will not be voting on a border bill before leaving on vacation.