House Republicans Prepare Vote for Next Week on Border Package

McCarthy, Scalise face first big leadership test.

NOGALES, AZ - JUNE 18: Boys wait in line to make a phone call as they are joined by hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children that are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center on June 18, 2014, in Nogales, Arizona. Brownsville, Texas, and Nogales, have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since Oct. 1. (Photo by Ross D. Franklin-Pool/Getty Images)
National Journal
Rachel Roubein and Billy House
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Rachel Roubein and Billy House
July 25, 2014, 6:28 a.m.

Fear­ing a po­ten­tial back­lash if the House starts its Au­gust re­cess Thursday without first ad­dress­ing the bor­der crisis, GOP lead­ers plan to un­veil their own le­gis­la­tion no later than Monday for a vote next week.

A closed-door GOP Con­fer­ence meet­ing Fri­day did not fea­ture pre­cise de­tails about what would be in the bill — or pack­age of bills — to re­spond to Pres­id­ent Obama’s call for $3.7 bil­lion to deal with the in­flux of un­ac­com­pan­ied minors at the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der.

“There will be a pack­age giv­en to us this af­ter­noon [Fri­day] — or no later than Monday,” said Den­nis Ross, R-Fla., a mem­ber of Ma­jor­ity Whip-elect Steve Scal­ise’s new whip team.

While the pack­age has not yet been re­leased, Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, said the pack­age’s policy side will keep the most im­port­ant re­com­mend­a­tions from a House Re­pub­lic­an work­ing group that she led to ad­dress the bor­der crisis. This in­cludes de­ploy­ing the Na­tion­al Guard to the bor­der, adding more im­mig­ra­tion judges, chan­ging com­pon­ents of a 2008 anti-traf­fick­ing law, help­ing the coun­tries im­prove their re­pat­ri­ation ef­forts, and re­turn­ing chil­dren home on planes.

“‘We should not leave for an Au­gust break un­less we have it done,” she told re­port­ers after ex­it­ing the private GOP meet­ing. “So I think we’re down to really bare-bones sug­ges­tions that can be done — and can be done really quickly.”

Both policy and fund­ing will likely be coupled to­geth­er to cre­ate one bill, House Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee Chair­man Har­old Ro­gers said Fri­day morn­ing. Ori­gin­ally, he had re­com­men­ded $1.5 bil­lion, but Granger said that fig­ure may be lower, with some mem­bers say­ing it could be less than $1 bil­lion. This would rep­res­ent a stark dif­fer­ence from the $2.7 bil­lion laid out by the Sen­ate and the $3.7 bil­lion re­quest from Obama.

As an aside, Ross said the bor­der pack­age will rep­res­ent a sort of shake­down cruise for Scal­ise and his team, the first le­gis­la­tion that they will be fully en­gaged in as “vote-whip­pers.” It also will rep­res­ent the first real test for Ma­jor­ity Lead­er-elect Kev­in Mc­Carthy.

The likely scaled-down ver­sion of the work­ing group’s re­com­mend­a­tions is a policy Granger said she be­lieves can pass — at least in the House.

“I think we have those votes, I really do,” Granger said.

But, ac­cord­ing to sev­er­al mem­bers, this first test for Mc­Carthy and Scal­ise could be a tough one.

Dur­ing the closed-door con­fer­ence, a long line of GOP mem­bers came up to the mi­cro­phone to give a wide range of opin­ions about what the party should do, ac­cord­ing to those in the room. Some feared that the party would not do enough, and oth­ers were ap­pre­hens­ive that the lead­ers were pre­par­ing to do too much.

“A lot of people are wor­ried, either way,” said Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas.

But Flores said he is among House Re­pub­lic­ans who be­lieve they can’t simply leave Wash­ing­ton next week to be­gin a sum­mer re­cess without do­ing something. Flores say he is among mem­bers hear­ing from con­stitu­ents that they want Wash­ing­ton to take ac­tion to deal with the crisis. And he said the White House and oth­ers would seize on that if they do not, to de­flect blame on them­selves and score polit­ic­al points.

The House needs to pass something, he said, even if that might re­quire mem­bers stay­ing in Wash­ing­ton past their planned Thursday ad­journ­ment.

“The pres­id­ent is a mas­ter of pro­ject­ing his fail­ure onto the Con­gress,” Flores said. “I don’t know if that would stick, but why put ourselves through that?”

Yet, the Sen­ate and the House’s pro­pos­als to curb the bor­der crisis might be headed to­ward a col­li­sion course.

First, there’s a polit­ic­al di­vide on wheth­er changes should be made to a 2008 anti-traf­fick­ing law. Re­pub­lic­ans want Cent­ral Amer­ic­ans to be al­lowed to re­turn home vol­un­tar­ily, sim­il­ar to Mex­ic­an and Ca­na­dian chil­dren. Many Demo­crats and im­mig­ra­tion ad­voc­ates ar­gue this doesn’t al­low the child’s case to be heard ad­equately or fairly.

“I very firmly be­lieve that it would be a mis­take for us to do im­mig­ra­tion law in a sup­ple­ment­al bill. We’re not sup­posed to be le­gis­lat­ing on an ap­pro­pri­ations bill,” House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi said at a Fri­day press con­fer­ence. “Are we go­ing to live up to our re­spons­ib­il­ity for hu­man­it­ari­an­ism, due pro­cess, and the rest? Or are we go­ing to take a cheap shot at kids? We’ll see.”

Second, House Re­pub­lic­ans have a deep dis­trust for Pres­id­ent Obama.

“So we could pass the most per­fect law in the world in deal­ing with this situ­ation,” Flores told re­port­ers Fri­day. “And the pres­id­ent would ig­nore it, and so that is a frus­tra­tion.”

Sarah Mimms contributed to this article.
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