The Problem With Asking Congress for Money for the Border

The White House is requesting nearly $4 billion in funds to help solve the unaccompanied-minors crisis at the border. But Congress has a few requests of its own.

Sineage stands on the American side of the U.S.-Mexico border fence during a special 'Mass on the Border' on April 1, 2014 in Nogales, Arizona.
National Journal
Rachel Roubein and Fawn Johnson
See more stories about...
Rachel Roubein Fawn Johnson
July 8, 2014, 7:03 p.m.

Ask­ing for money from Con­gress is dan­ger­ous. Pres­id­ent Obama re­ques­ted $3.7 bil­lion on Tues­day to ad­dress the surge of un­ac­com­pan­ied minors on the Rio Grande bor­der. Now Re­pub­lic­ans have lever­age, and they have a few re­quests of their own.

Sen. Marco Ru­bio of Flor­ida wants to re­quire em­ploy­ers to veri­fy elec­tron­ic­ally that new hires are in the coun­try leg­ally and the gov­ern­ment to put in place an elec­tron­ic entry-exit sys­tem at points of entry at the bor­der. He says the bor­der crisis cre­ates an op­por­tun­ity for policy-makers to fi­nally ad­dress broad­er im­mig­ra­tion en­force­ment.

House Speak­er John Boehner wants the Na­tion­al Guard to be de­ployed to provide hu­man­it­ari­an as­sist­ance to the chil­dren wait­ing for pro­cessing.

Sen. John Mc­Cain of Ari­zona wants “an ex­ped­ited re­turn of the chil­dren back to their coun­try of ori­gin,” which is not in the re­quest Obama sent to Con­gress. “That’s the only way to stop this,” he told re­port­ers.

By seek­ing a hefty amount of money to ad­dress a grow­ing prob­lem at the bor­der, Obama has opened him­self up to a hefty dose of GOP cri­ti­cism for the ways in which his ad­min­is­tra­tion has handled the bor­der up to now. He might not get any­thing out of it in the end, and the ne­go­ti­ations could drag on for weeks.

Con­gress will only be in ses­sion un­til the end of Ju­ly, and there is little chance of his re­quest be­ing ap­proved be­fore then. Dur­ing Au­gust, mem­bers will be trav­el­ing to their dis­tricts in cam­paign mode. By the time they re­turn in Septem­ber, the fisc­al year will be al­most over, and the midterm elec­tions will be loom­ing. The end of Septem­ber will also prompt a fa­mil­i­ar fight about what to do about ex­pir­ing gov­ern­ment fund­ing to avoid a gov­ern­ment shut­down.

A pro­longed con­ver­sa­tion about a bor­der crisis — par­tic­u­larly one where the causes are a mat­ter of de­bate and polit­ic­al mud-throw­ing — isn’t the ideal way to ap­proach the elec­tion. Nor is it help­ful in resolv­ing the reg­u­lar ne­go­ti­ations over ex­tend­ing gov­ern­ment spend­ing un­til law­makers agree on next year’s levels.

Law­makers said Tues­day that the re­quest for emer­gency funds will be sub­jec­ted to a reg­u­lar ap­pro­pri­ations pro­cess in both the House and the Sen­ate. That takes time even when the re­la­tion­ship between the White House and Con­gress is func­tion­ing. Adding to the com­plic­a­tions, the dis­cus­sions must start in the House, where Re­pub­lic­ans are du­bi­ous (to say the least) of the pres­id­ent’s motives.

“They’re so screwed up over there. I don’t think they know what they’re think­ing,” said Rep. Buck McK­eon of Cali­for­nia, the chair­man of the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee. He and oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans are up­set that the White House tele­graphed for al­most a week through the press that the re­quest would be $2 bil­lion. Now it’s al­most double that fig­ure, and it in­cludes money for wild­fires that no one was ex­pect­ing.

Still, they ac­know­ledge that it is not in the­ory a bad idea to pass fund­ing to help pro­cess the chil­dren on the bor­der. Does it need to be well over $3 bil­lion? “He in­ven­ted [the num­ber],” Rep. Dar­rell Issa, R-Cal­if., said of Obama. “But we do need the money so we can in­car­cer­ate people so it’s not ‘catch and re­lease.’ Yes.”

Issa’s com­plaint is the most com­mon of Re­pub­lic­ans in both the House and the Sen­ate, who say they don’t want to ap­prove more money that will simply al­low the Bor­der Patrol to re­lease chil­dren in­to the cus­tody of fam­ily or guard­i­ans in­side the United States (some of them un­doc­u­mented them­selves), who will then melt in­to the land­scape.

“Noth­ing will stop the flow like see­ing a plane come back with kids. People that real­ize they just spent five to sev­en thou­sand dol­lars to send people to the bor­der, and now they’re back,” said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ar­iz.

House Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee Chair­man Har­old Ro­gers, R-Ky., is call­ing for a “close and thor­ough look” at the White House’s fund­ing re­quest.

The money, if net­ted, will go to­ward tak­ing an “ag­gress­ive ap­proach on both sides of the bor­der,” ac­cord­ing to a White House of­fi­cial. 

The ex­tra money would speed up the re­mov­al pro­cess of chil­dren who don’t have a le­git­im­ate asylum claim, pro­sec­ute the crim­in­al net­works that are smug­gling chil­dren across the bor­der, and provide some $300 mil­lion in aid to Cent­ral Amer­ic­an coun­tries to identi­fy and as­sist the chil­dren who are at the most risk of gang or drug vi­ol­ence. It is a mul­ti­pronged ap­proach that would send fund­ing to the vari­ous de­part­ments, such as Home­land Se­cur­ity, Justice, Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, and State, as well as to oth­er in­ter­na­tion­al pro­grams.

There is no set date for a House com­mit­tee hear­ing, but the re­quest will have its first hear­ing on Thursday in the Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee in the Demo­crat­ic-con­trolled Sen­ate.

Issa said the House would take its time de­lib­er­at­ing the re­quest be­cause it wants more than just “babysit­ting” for the un­ac­com­pan­ied minors on the bor­der.

Rep. Pete Ses­sions of Texas best summed up Re­pub­lic­ans’ views on Obama’s re­quest. “To simply throw money at a prob­lem and a prob­lem con­tin­ues, that’s a bad an­swer,” he said.

What We're Following See More »
BACKING OUT ON BERNIE
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
1 days ago
THE LATEST

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

AKNOWLEDGING THE INEVITABLE
UAW: Time to Unite Behind Hillary
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.

Source:
AP KEEPING COUNT
Trump Clinches Enough Delegates for the Nomination
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."

Source:
TRUMP FLOATED IDEA ON JIMMY KIMMEL’S SHOW
Trump/Sanders Debate Before California Primary?
2 days ago
THE LATEST
CAMPAIGNS INJECTED NEW AD MONEY
California: It’s Not Over Yet
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.

Source:
×