After delaying their five-week summer recess by a day, House Republican leaders passed a bill Friday designed to deal with the crisis of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S-Mexico border – a bill that President Obama and Senate Democrats have said they won’t ever consider.
The bill, which passed 223-189 along party lines, would allocate $694 million to the cash-strapped agencies handling the crisis, including $35 million tacked on at the last minute to reimburse states such as Texas who have sent the National Guard to the border to help deal with the crisis.
Without a fresh infusion of funding, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is scheduled to run out of money in mid-August, according to the Department of Homeland Security, and Customs and Border Patrol will run out of money only a month later.
President Obama criticized House Republicans before it passed accusing the vote of being merely for show, “just so they can check a box before they’re leaving town for a month.”
The White House, the Democrat-led Senate and the Republican-led House “all agree that there’s a problem that needs to be solved in a portion of our southern border,” Mr. Obama said, referring to the crisis-level surge of undocumented, unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
“And we even agree on most of the solutions. But instead of working together… 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.”
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel responded, “When it comes to the humanitarian crisis on our southern border, President Obama has been completely AWOL – in fact, he has made matter worse by flip-flopping on the 2008 law that fueled the crisis. Senate Democrats have left town without acting on his request for a border supplemental. Right now, House Republicans are the only ones still working to address this crisis.”
Republican leaders postponed their recess on Thursday after they were forced to cancel a vote on the bill due to an insurrection among conservative members. They spent Friday tweaking the bill before passing it late in the day.
GOP leaders on Friday also passed a bill that would bar Mr. Obama from continuing or expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which suspends the threat of deportation for certain immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. The second bill was largely seen as a way to bolster conservative support for the funding measure.
Many Democrats firmly opposed changing the 2008 law, saying the U.S. should not be sending the children back into certain danger, while Republicans said it was necessary to speed up deportations and deter more children from making the dangerous journey.
Those differences would have been hard enough to overcome. But to complicate matters further, the DACA vote was added to the schedule of votes Thursday, infuriating the White House and House Democrats.
As Mr. Obama repeated Friday, the White House had already promised to veto the House’s emergency funding bill, calling it “patchwork legislation that will only put more arbitrary and unrealistic demands on an already broken system” in a statement Wednesday afternoon. The news about the DACA vote only added fuel to their fire.
“It is extraordinary that the House of Representatives, after failing for more than a year to reform our broken immigration reform system, would vote to restrict a law enforcement tool that the Department of Homeland Security uses to focus resources on key enforcement priorities like public safety and border security, and provide temporary relief from deportation for people who are low priorities for removal,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement Thursday. “The House is instead driving an approach that is about rounding up and deporting 11 million people, separating families, and undermining DHS’ ability to secure the border.”
House leaders defended the move as a necessary check on Mr. Obama’s power, particularly in light of reports that the president is considering a range of executive actions he could undertake to provide deportation relief for anywhere from 550,000 to 4.4 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.
“Such action would create an even greater incentive for more illegal crossings and make the crisis on our border even worse. That would be a grave mistake,” Boehner told reporters Thursday. “If the president takes this action he’ll be sealing the deal on his legacy of lawlessness.”