GOP Leaders Pitch Revised Border Package, Hope to Vote Today (Updated)
Updated 12:44 p.m. | House Republicans emerged from a closed-door meeting Friday morning with a revised plan to address the child migrant border crisis — one leaders hope to pass later today.
The latest plan will still require the House to vote on the border funding bill before being allowed to vote on language to stop the expansion of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, according to members exiting the conference meeting.
Both components, however, will look slightly different.
The appropriations bill, which was $659 million on Thursday night, will now include an additional $35 million to bolster National Guard resources at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The bill, which also contains numerous related policy riders, will also expand on language tweaking a 2008 trafficking law in order to expedite deportations of the migrants.
The measure originally called for treating all unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border the same in terms of whether they could volunteer for deportation back to their home countries. Now, the legislation will incorporate the stronger language of legislation recently introduced by Republican Reps. John Carter of Texas, Robert Aderholt of Alabama and Jack Kingston of Georgia.
In addition to making it easier to expedite deportations, their proposal would allow immigration enforcement officials to detain children while they wait for deportation hearings and require immigration enforcement officials to investigate people taking custody of undocumented immigrant children to determine whether they are being compensated by drug smugglers.
Regarding DACA — the 2012 executive order granting stays of deportation to young undocumented immigrants brought to the country illegally by their parents — that language would revert back to the original legislation introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. GOP leaders quietly softened the language in the earlier proposal, angering conservatives.
There was at one point discussion about whether the new proposal would include language to crack down on asylum fraud and raise the threshold for making an asylum claim, but members pushing for those provisions ultimately backed down, saying that as long as the issue was addressed later in the legislative session they would not demand it be integrated into this package.
Conservative Republicans are now more positive about the package and the process by which changes were made, with some of the earlier, harshest critics, like Rep. Steve King of Iowa, now leaning toward voting “yes.”
King said he was extremely pleased with the concessions he was able to extract from leadership.
“The changes brought into this are ones I’ve developed and advocated for over the past two years,” he told CQ Roll Call. “It’s like I ordered it off the menu.”
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California said legislation had been tweaked to address concerns of conservatives, though there would still be a vote on the supplemental before the DACA bill.
“We’ll keep it the same way as we were running it before,” he said.
While McCarthy emphasized the continued push to move two bills, Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana stressed changes to the supplemental aimed at satisfying conservatives.
“We’re going to have a strong bill that shows how we can address this border crisis that the president refused to deal with. We’re going to keep working until we get our job done. The Senate’s going to leave without doing their work. The president refuses to do his work. But the House is going to stay, do our work and show that we can lead and solve the problem,” he said.
Republicans said the House could vote as late as 9 p.m. on Friday and then leave for its own recess, a day later than anticipated.
There is no certainty at this point, however, that all the votes are in place. Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., came out of the meeting saying he could not guarantee the support was currently there.
And Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said he would not support the plan unless the voting order is reversed so that the DACA vote goes first and the border funding bill goes second — or if the DACA language is folded into the border funding bill.
The incentive for members to get their DACA vote hinged on passing the appropriations bill, but Fleming said he was concerned that it could fail because more moderate Republicans don’t like the stronger language.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., said leaders had to make sure both bills would pass the House.
“We also had a conversation about making sure that we don’t vote for the border security bill without voting for DACA,” she said after leaving the GOP conference Friday morning. “They both have to pass and we have to have the votes for both of them. If we don’t that would be a deal breaker for the conference. But we have the votes, we’re quite sure. We’ve been assured that by the leadership.”
There has been some pushback against the plan to send both bills separately to the Senate rather than in a combined package, making it easy for the Democrat-controlled chamber to just put the DACA language to the wayside.
But the Senate isn’t likely to take up either of the House’s bills, anyway: It left town on Thursday evening for the five-week August recess, itself ultimately unable to get the Republican votes to pass its version of a border funding bill.
Meanwhile, House Republicans remained all over the map on the chaotic process.
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., slammed GOP leaders for trying to pull a “Pelosi” — evoking the minority leader’s infamous line about having to pass the Affordable Care Act to find out what’s in it.
“We’re finding problems in the bill that would be caught and addressed if there were more time,” he said.
He referred, more than once, to the highlighted copy of H.R. 5160 he had tucked under his arm — a draft tagged with a hand-scrawled note designating it “The good Cruz/Blackburn bill that actually prevents funding/resources” — but stressed that he’s anxious to examine the final product.
“We’re being asked to commit to bills that have not been drafted yet,” he said.
But Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., said that while the process has been messy, he pronounced himself “pleased.”
“I’ve been here almost 12 years, if I had realized that we could work this well together as a conference maybe I would have stayed around a little bit longer,” said Gingery, who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate. “This is kind of a shining moment for us and I feel real proud of all of our conference and the new leadership team, they were under a lot of pressure and showed they could really listen to every member.”
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California predicted Democrats would be unified in opposition to both bills.
The top Democrat said members of her caucus “didn’t like it yesterday. Now, it’s moved farther to the right.”
Alan Ota, Emily Ethridge, Humberto Sanchez, Warren Rojas and Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.