One Day Closer to Recess and Still No House Border Funding Bill
The House wrapped up Wednesday, one day closer to the August recess and still with no clear indication of when Republicans will unveil their response to President Barack Obama’s emergency funding request for $3.7 billion for the Texas border crisis .
But lawmakers insisted the framework for their border funding bill is beginning to crystallize.
Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., confirmed that the plan was still to move through the chamber a single package providing both policy changes and financial assistance.
“We’re ready on the money part,” Rogers told reporters. “We’ve got to craft it, we’ve got to get it scored and do all of those things, but as soon as we get the final policy inserts, we can go pretty quick.”
Rogers would not divulge, however, how much money the committee plans to allocate, which could be a sticking point for the fiscal conservative contingent of the House Republican Conference. Whatever the sum may be, however, it is certain to be lower than the White House’s original $3.7 billion.
He also wouldn’t say whether any decisions had been made regarding an offset — also a deal-breaker for many members on the far right — or if funds would be directed to the Department of Health and Human Services to house unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border.
“We’re scrubbing the numbers, we’re looking for matters that need to be taken care of immediately and what can be carried under the regular process of passing appropriations bills for 2015, which we’re involved in right now,” Rogers said.
Part of the standstill, Rogers continued, was due to the special GOP working group tasked with making policy recommendations to stem the border crisis. On Wednesday afternoon, the task force’s chairwoman, Texas Republican Kay Granger, acknowledged that the submission of her group’s report was taking longer than anticipated.
“I think I made two commitments, and I haven’t held either one of them, so I don’t want to make anymore,” Granger, also an appropriator, said with a laugh. “But we want to vote on a bill before we leave for August. We think that’s very important.”
In a separate hallway interview with reporters, working group member and appropriator Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., suggested that the group had completed its formal list of policy recommendations by saying, “We’re done.”
Republicans might also be negotiating behind closed doors as to what policy riders they can put into their legislative package that would not alienate too large a swath of Democrats, whom they might need to rely on for votes if the measure doesn’t go far enough to satisfy a sufficient number of their own members.
Rogers reiterated on Wednesday that changes to a 2008 trafficking law to make it easier to more quickly deport unaccompanied minors must be included and were “nonnegotiable,” while more and more Democrats began to signal they won’t support any border funding bill that includes such changes.