|Cristina Marcos||July 31st 2014|
House GOP leaders canceled a Thursday vote on their $659 million border bill after failing to win over conservative members who opposed giving any more money to President Obama.
A significant number of Republicans had balked at sending any money to the White House for the border, and Democrats were generally united in opposing the measure.
The decision is another defeat for House GOP leaders, who have repeatedly failed to bring their members in line on tough votes.
Signs of trouble emerged late Wednesday night when the House Rules Committee delayed reporting a rule for the border bill.
Even a late decision by leaders to set up a separate vote to prevent President Obama's Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program from being expanded didn't save the funding bill.
The DACA program defers the deportations of certain people who came to the United States illegally as children. The House would only have voted on that measure if the funding bill had been approved.
The measure’s defeat means the House will not vote later Thursday on that measure, which was intended to entice conservatives into backing the funding bill.
It is unclear what happens next. The House will vote for the last time around 2 p.m. on the Highway Trust Fund before leaving for the five-week August recess.
After the vote was called off, House GOP leadership tried to pin the blame on Obama.
"This situation shows the intense concern within our conference – and among the American people – about the need to ensure the security of our borders and the president’s refusal to faithfully execute our laws," the GOP leadership said in the statement. "We will continue to work on solutions to the border crisis and other challenges facing our country."
Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) and other Republicans had championed the changes to the Obama DACA program, arguing it had fueled the surge of child immigrants, mostly from Central America. The administration says most of the immigrants are fleeing violence in their home countries, though officials have acknowledged many mistakenly believe they will be allowed to stay in the United States.
The $659 million price tag on the House bill would have been far less than the Obama administration's original request of $3.7 billion and is also below a $2.7 billion bill the Senate is considering.
The Senate advanced its measure earlier this week, but it does not appear Democrats have enough votes to win final approval of their border legislation.
That means both chambers are likely to leave Washington having taken no actions to address the border crisis.
That will allow President Obama to bolster his arguments that a dysfunctional Congress is preventing Washington from getting its work done.
White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer tweeted after the vote that by pulling their bill, House Republicans had showed once again why Obama "must act on his own to solve problems."
The White House issued a veto threat against the bill on Wednesday in an effort to help Democrats defeat it.
At least two agencies are project to run out of funding in the next two months. Customs and Border Protection is projected to run out of money in mid-September and Immigration and Customs Enforcement by mid-August.
During floor debate, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) implored his colleagues to pass the measure.
"If we do not risk this bill today, you're going to risk these resources running out," Rogers said. "More and more immigrants will continue to flood across he border if you fail to act."
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), one of the few House Democrats inclined to support the GOP funding bill, urged passage of a bill before leaving for the recess.
"I think today in a bipartisan way we need to look for that right answer," Cuellar said.
Most Democrats opposed the measure because of language changing a 2008 human trafficking law so that unaccompanied child migrants can be sent back to their home countries faster.
Republicans argue the law has handcuffed authorities, preventing them from quickly deporting young Central American immigrants back to their home countries. Authorities have the power to send young people from Mexico back to that country more quickly.
Under the House proposal, child migrants who do not want to return to their home countries would remain in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services while awaiting a hearing, which would have to be within seven days after a welfare screening.
Administration officials over the last month have signaled support for changing the law, but in Wednesday's veto threat the administration said the GOP bill would make the problem at the border worse. It argued the changes to the 2008 law would undercut due process for immigrants.
Cristina Marcos writes for The Hill, from where this article is adapted.