The blizzard that has swept through the Mid-Atlantic states and New England this week has bought House Republican leaders more time for their efforts to try to mobilize support for controversial border security legislation, the National Journal reported
The stated reasons for pulling the Republican bill, which had been scheduled for floor action Wednesday, were the poor weather and the short Washington week, with the House planning to recess Wednesday so that Democrats could attend their annual retreat in Philadelphia.
But there is no question the blizzard has given the House Republican leadership much-needed time to try to add get-tough provisions to the legislation that will make it more palatable to conservatives who objected to the original leadership bill.
Many of these critics believe the bill does not do enough to aid the construction of a border fence or strengthen enforcement against illegals in the interior of the United States, The Washington Times reported
House leaders hope to combine the border bill with updated versions of interior enforcement legislation passed during the previous Congress.
More than 60 amendments have been filed on the bill, including proposals to authorize construction of a 700-mile pedestrian fence along the border; cutting foreign assistance to those Central American nations whose citizens flooded across the border into the United States last summer; and requiring that the Border Patrol detain and quickly deport all of the illegal immigrants it catches.
Most of the illegals from Central America apprehended last summer after crossing the border were released into the interior of the United States, enabling them to disappear among the large number already in the country illegally, the Times said.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, wrote the House leadership's border bill, which included provisions ordering the Homeland Security Department to add 48 more miles of fencing and improved technology to prevent incursions.
The legislation would also require DHS to come up with a strategy to stop 100 percent of illegal smuggling and border crossings within five years.
But after hearing complaints that the bill wasn't strong enough, McCaul added provisions which barred top DHS political appointees from taking flights on government planes, attending conferences, and getting salary increases and bonuses until they build new border fencing, the Times reported.
Although McCaul said he wrote the bill after discussions with Border Patrol agents, the National Border Patrol Council
, which represents line agents in the field, announced its opposition to the measure over the weekend.
Agents say the bill failed to increase their manpower or fix their training, which was slashed the last time DHS hired substantial numbers of new agents.
Conservative Republican opposition to the McCaul bill has increased in the wake of withering criticism from Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions
. He has issued a detailed critique of the measure, saying it is a waste of money to send more resources to the border when President Barack Obama's policies permit millions who have entered illegally to remain in communities across the United States.
McCaul counters that interior enforcement — the focus of Sessions' criticism — is overseen by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he cannot address it in his immigration bill.
It is uncertain when the House bill will come to the floor for a vote.
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