Just hours after shifting gears on a strategy to pass a $659 million appropriations bill to bolster resources at the U.S.-Mexico border, House Republicans are moving ahead, more confident they have the votes.
Rank-and-file members emerged from a GOP Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club on Thursday morning with a sense that the gambit — giving conservatives a standalone vote to stop the expansion of President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program after they pass the border funding bill — would be enough to bring conservative holdouts on board.
Many Republicans argue that DACA, the 2012 executive order granting stays of deportation to young undocumented immigrants brought into the country illegally by their parents, is responsible for the influx of child migrants who have come to believe that if the can get over the border and into the United States, they will be allowed to stay and put on a path to legal status. They insisted that any legislation to stem the tide of the border surge would have to address that executive action, especially after news reports Obama is considering expanding the program to as many as five million more immigrants here illegally.
But the whip operation was still ongoing Thursday morning, with some Republicans still feeling reluctant to come into the fold, saying that the plan to send the appropriations bill and the DACA language over to the Senate in separate packages all but ensured the Democrat-controlled chamber would ignore the latter legislation.
Many GOP lawmakers had hoped to scale back DACA as an amendment to the underlying appropriations bill, or at least have the two measures merged into one to force the Senate to deal with the language directly. They had been hoping for consideration of a bill similar to that which is being touted by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, which dealt with the issues in bulk.
Others are angry that the DACA language isn't strong enough.
"It doesn't retroactively call out the president for violating ," said Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., who is still a "no" vote on the border bill. "It says, 'as of July 30, yesterday, no more deferred actions.' So we're condoning the actions that were taken, and from day one I've said he had no ability to do that."
But Rep. Raul R. Labrador, R-Idaho, said he was pleased with the new developments.
"I think that's the right move," he said, "because the president can't use DACA then as an excuse" for not adopting the House's changes to the 2008 trafficking law also blamed for the influx of children.
Republicans are pushing for changing the six-year-old trafficking law to make it easier to deport unaccompanied minors from Central America back to their home countries.
"We're sending two strong messages: The president's actions caused the problem and here's the solution to the problem," Labrador said.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., whose bill was the basis for the DACA language coming to the House floor this afternoon, also supported leadership's vision. "I think that it will give our friends and colleagues in the Senate two opportunities to address this issue," she said.
Some Republicans, however, see the Blackburn legislation as a potential messaging nightmare for the GOP after failing to act on comprehensive immigration overhaul legislation.
"It's unnecessary," said Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif. "I've let know the concerns that we have about making a political statement versus a strong policy statement."
Matt Fuller contributed to this report.