House Republicans, poised to head out for their August break, are staying in Washington to try to pass a plan addressing child migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, and some blame Republican Senator Ted Cruz.
Cruz, a Tea Party-backed lawmaker from Texas, is urging House Republicans to oppose leaders’ $659 million border plan. Enough of them balked to force leaders to cancel today’s scheduled vote on the bill for lack of support.
“We’ll have the votes tomorrow,” Representative Spencer Bachus of Alabama told reporters.
House leaders plan to confer with holdouts tonight to work on revisions to the measure, and Republicans will meet privately in the morning. Representative John Fleming of Louisiana said that to get his vote, “they would have to massively change what’s in the bill.”
Even if the House manages to pass a measure, Congress almost certainly will leave Washington for the August break without enacting a plan to address the border crisis. The Senate yesterday advanced a $2.7 billion plan, still less than the $3.7 billion President Barack Obama requested.
Republicans and Democrats also disagree about Republicans’ bid to change a law to speed the deportation of children at the border.
House Republican leaders had repeatedly adjusted the border proposal in an effort to gain support from lawmakers aligned with the small-government Tea Party movement.
“We’ve got a caucus of widely disparate views, and it never really gelled for 218 on our side,” the number of votes needed to pass a bill in the House, said Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican.
Cruz this week was urging party members in the House to oppose the bill, H.R. 5230. Late yesterday he met with about a dozen House Republicans over pizza and Dr. Pepper to discuss strategy about the proposal.
“Ted Cruz and a handful of Republicans have hijacked the party,” said Representative Peter King, a New York Republican.
“Speaker Cruz is deciding the agenda,” said Representative Joe Garcia, a Florida Democrat.
Cruz been an influential voice among House Republicans, urging them to oppose Obamacare at every turn. His encouragement to withhold support for government spending unless the president’s health-care law was defunded led to the partial government shutdown in October.
Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, also sought to persuade House Republicans to oppose their leaders’ bill, Bachus said. In a statement on his website, Sessions said Congress needs to pass a stronger bill to prevent Obama from taking executive action to provide “amnesty” to undocumented immigrants.
The blowup over the border bill occurred as House Speaker John Boehner’s new leadership team is taking control following the defeat of outgoing Majority Leader Eric Cantor by a Tea Party-backed candidate in a Virginia primary vote.
“We are going to stay until we get it done,” Representative Darrell Issa of California told reporters after the meeting. “There were a number of people who had indicated no but they would now vote yes.”
House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said, though, that members of his party were already leaving Washington.
Texas Republican Kay Granger said she was “very disappointed” the bill her border working group helped write was pulled from the floor. The reason was “no votes,” she told reporters.
With the House in disarray, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters that Senate Democrats would press forward with an effort to pass their $2.7 billion spending bill later today.
“Obviously we’ll try and pass ours,” said Reid, a Nevada Democrat, adding that he wasn’t surprised Boehner couldn’t lock down the votes for the House bill. “It’s not the first time.”
Today’s move in the House was similar to another failed attempt by Boehner to corral votes from his members. In December 2012 he canceled a vote on his proposal to extend expiring tax breaks for people making up to $1 million annually. That ultimately led to a fiscal compromise including a tax increase for individuals making more than $400,000 a year.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, in an interview, criticized Republicans for stripping down their bill repeatedly to appeal to holdout Tea Party members.
“It wasn’t even bad enough for them,” said Pelosi of California.
The border vote would be a tough one for some Tea Party Republicans because it combines more spending with the politically difficult issue of immigration. In the past few years, Boehner has had to rely on Democratic support to help pass some measures, including a debt-limit increase and a farm bill.
Boehner told reporters July 29 that leaders had “a little more work to do” to gain support for the border bill.
Late yesterday, Republican leaders agreed to allow a vote on a measure -- sought by Cruz and other party members -- to block Obama from expanding a 2012 executive order giving certain undocumented children relief from immigration proceedings.
That agreement “cuts both ways” by picking up certain Republicans and losing others, said Representative Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Republican.
About 57,000 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the border from Oct. 1, 2013, through June 15, double the total from the same time a year earlier. Most of the children are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Representative Kerry Bentivolio, a Michigan Republican, said regarding the leaders’ plan, “I don’t really think it secures the border.”
“I’m not really interested in supporting it because I don’t think it does anything,” Bentivolio said.
The Obama administration seized on the House leadership’s failure to get a vote and used it to justify the president’s plan to use executive actions on the border issue.
“By pulling their own bill, the House GOP once again proves why the president must act on his own to solve problems,” senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer posted on Twitter.
Pfeiffer told reporters last week that the humanitarian crisis on the border combined with a deadlock in Congress give Obama “broad permission to take what executive action we can to try to deal with the broken immigration system.”
Democratic officials and immigration advocates have said Obama is considering using his executive authority to let millions of undocumented immigrants obtain work permits that would allow them to stay in the U.S. legally. Obama probably will act before the November midterm congressional elections.
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