Both Parties Looking to Pare Down Obama’s Border Funding

Senate Democrats propose to cut $1 billion from the president’s request; House Republicans are expected to unveil an even deeper cut Wednesday.

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 24: U.S. Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-TX) speaks at The Elton John AIDS Foundation and UNAIDS breakfast at the Russell Senate Office Building on July 24, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for The Elton John AIDS Foundation)
National Journal
Michael Catalini and Billy House
July 22, 2014, 5:38 p.m.

House Re­pub­lic­ans are plan­ning on Wed­nes­day to un­veil their own plan to deal with the bor­der crisis that would provide less than half of the $3.7 bil­lion in emer­gency spend­ing re­ques­ted by Pres­id­ent Obama.

In a closed-door meet­ing at the Cap­it­ol, House Ap­pro­pri­ations Chair­man Har­old Ro­gers is to lay out a GOP fund­ing al­tern­at­ive that seni­or aides have de­scribed as between $1.3 bil­lion and $1.5 bil­lion.

Ro­gers him­self said Tues­day that the spend­ing will be en­tirely off­set by cuts else­where in the budget — and geared to provid­ing agen­cies and oth­er op­er­a­tions in­volved in deal­ing with the surge of un­ac­com­pan­ied minors to the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der through Jan. 1.

Mean­while, Sen­ate Demo­crat­ic lead­ers are work­ing on a sup­ple­ment­al spend­ing bill that would grant the White House $1 bil­lion less than it sought to ad­dress the in­flux of minors from Cent­ral Amer­ica at the na­tion’s south­ern bor­der.

Also on Wed­nes­day, Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Kay Granger of Texas is ex­pec­ted to re­lease a “set of prin­ciples” that have been put to­geth­er by her­self and oth­er mem­bers of a House “bor­der work­ing group” cre­ated by Speak­er John Boehner on im­mig­ra­tion policy.

Most of the work­ing group’s policy re­com­mend­a­tions are ex­pec­ted to be­come part of the House Re­pub­lic­an al­tern­at­ive to Obama’s pro­pos­al. They in­clude:

“¢ The need to provide for more Na­tion­al Guard in­volve­ment along the bor­der, in­clud­ing in hu­man­it­ari­an re­lief ef­forts, such as provid­ing food, shel­ter, and health care.

“¢ Chan­ging a 2008 anti-traf­fick­ing law to al­low im­mig­rant chil­dren at the bor­der to be vol­un­tar­ily and more swiftly re­turned to their home coun­tries rather than be­ing held for de­port­a­tion hear­ings. Many Sen­ate and House Demo­crats, in­clud­ing the Con­gres­sion­al His­pan­ic Caucus, have already said they would op­pose this.

“¢ Put­ting an end to the so-called “catch and re­lease” sys­tem for un­ac­com­pan­ied minors, and in­stead re­quir­ing that they be de­tained un­til they see an im­mig­ra­tion judge. The re­com­mend­a­tions will call for this to hap­pen with­in five to sev­en days.

“¢ “Chan­ging the nar­rat­ive” by pro­mot­ing — through ad­vert­ise­ments in Cent­ral Amer­ica — the no­tion that the U.S. will send im­mig­rants back home if they do not cross the bor­der leg­ally.

In the Sen­ate, Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee Chair­wo­man Bar­bara Mikul­ski of Mary­land is craft­ing the $2.7 bil­lion le­gis­la­tion along with lead­er­ship in the hopes of get­ting it to the floor be­fore the Sen­ate re­cesses for Au­gust.

“The United States has an ob­lig­a­tion to help re­solve these crises, but is run­ning out of money,” Mikul­ski said in a state­ment. “The costs are real and ur­gent. We don’t save money by re­fus­ing to act or through delay.”

Demo­crats are slash­ing nearly $1 bil­lion from the pres­id­ent’s re­quest be­cause they’re angling to get Re­pub­lic­an sup­port, a seni­or Demo­crat­ic aide said. Re­pub­lic­ans have signaled they op­pose the pres­id­ent’s re­quest, char­ac­ter­iz­ing it as a blank check, and it’s un­clear wheth­er they’ll back Mikul­ski’s downs­ized ver­sion of the le­gis­la­tion.

An aide to Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell said he had not seen the meas­ure yet, but raised a ques­tion about wheth­er re­forms to leg­al au­thor­it­ies would be in­cluded.

The Sen­ate bill would au­thor­ize the fund­ing through the end of the year, the Demo­crat­ic aide said. It would also in­clude $225 mil­lion for Is­rael’s Iron Dome mis­sile-de­fense sys­tem, which has gained no­tori­ety in re­cent days for its ef­fect­ive­ness in re­pelling rock­ets from Hamas.

The bill will carry $615 mil­lion to ad­dress wild­fires as well.

Left out of the bill are changes to the im­mig­ra­tion sys­tem, which some law­makers had sought.

Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id of Nevada said he’s hope­ful the Sen­ate could pass the meas­ure soon, but he did not guar­an­tee it.

“We feel com­fort­able where we are and would hope that Re­pub­lic­ans would sup­port us,” he said.

The bill’s path to pas­sage is fraught. For one, the Sen­ate has struggled all year with ap­pro­pri­ations meas­ures on the floor, with Re­id and Mc­Con­nell dis­agree­ing over how to pro­ceed on amend­ments. So far, the Sen­ate has passed none of the 12 an­nu­al spend­ing bills.

Contributions by Clara Ritger and Rachel Roubein
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