Divided House Approves $694M Border Bill, Deportation Measure

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 19: U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) (L) speaks to members of the media as Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) (R) listens after a leadership election at a House Republican Conference meeting June 19, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. House GOPs have picked Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as the new House majority leader and Scalise as the new majority whip. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
National Journal
Billy House Tim Alberta
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Billy House Tim Alberta
Aug. 1, 2014, 4:49 p.m.

House GOP lead­ers Fri­day night fi­nally pushed through pas­sage of bor­der fund­ing le­gis­la­tion and a bill chan­ging de­port­a­tion policies, a one-cham­ber mes­saging ap­proach that in the end may speak louder about law­makers’ in­ab­il­ity to ever write a work­able bill that Con­gress as a whole can pass.

The 223-189 ad­op­tion of a $694 mil­lion sup­ple­ment­al spend­ing meas­ure came mostly along party lines, and only after both it and the second meas­ure de­man­ded by some harder-line mem­bers took sig­ni­fic­ant re­writ­ing. Planned votes on earli­er ver­sions Thursday had been ab­ruptly scrapped be­cause neither had enough sup­port.

Four Re­pub­lic­ans voted against it: Thomas Massie of Ken­tucky, Wal­ter Jones of North Car­o­lina, Steph­en Finch­er of Ten­ness­ee, and Paul Broun of Geor­gia. (Paul Gos­ar of Ari­zona was a no, but changed his vote.) Henry Cuel­lar of Texas was the only Demo­crat to cross party lines and sup­port it.

The re­vi­sions in­cor­por­ated Fri­day in­cluded hik­ing spend­ing from the ori­gin­al $659 mil­lion bill by $35 mil­lion. The ad­ded money would double to $70 mil­lion fed­er­al re­im­burse­ments to states for Na­tion­al Guard activ­it­ies re­lated to U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der se­cur­ity and deal­ing with the tens of thou­sands of un­ac­com­pan­ied minors sur­ging there from Cent­ral Amer­ica.

The House then ap­proved the second re­vised bill, in­ten­ded to rein in Pres­id­ent Obama’s dis­cre­tion­ary au­thor­ity to de­fer de­port­a­tions. That meas­ure passed 216-192, with 11 Re­pub­lic­ans cross­ing the aisle to op­pose it and four Demo­crats vot­ing in fa­vor. Rep. Daniel Li­p­in­ski, D-Ill., voted present.

As a pack­age, the two House meas­ures are a far cry from the $3.7 bil­lion bor­der-crisis re­sponse that Obama gave to Con­gress earli­er this month to deal with the crisis.

In fact, both of those bills in their ini­tial ver­sions already had been tailored for tea-party mem­bers and oth­er con­ser­vat­ives, yet many of those same law­makers still re­jec­ted them on Thursday and de­man­ded changes.

That lack of sup­port, and need to ab­ruptly pull the bills, rep­res­en­ted an em­bar­rass­ment for Speak­er John Boehner and his lead­er­ship team. That in­cluded new Ma­jor­ity Whip and top Re­pub­lic­an vote-counter/en­for­cer Steve Scal­ise, who has de­pic­ted him­self as a needed lead­er­ship bridge to con­ser­vat­ives only to see work on his first bills un­ravel.

The Sen­ate will not take up either meas­ure — a $2.7 bil­lion Sen­ate bill was blocked Thursday by Re­pub­lic­ans and that cham­ber has since ad­journed for its sum­mer re­cess.

“At least the House is put­ting a bill on the floor and passing it … but the Sen­ate is gone. It left,” Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee Chair­man Har­old Ro­gers said on the House floor, adding: “I hope the lead­er of the Sen­ate would real­ize that his body is get­ting severely cri­ti­cized for leav­ing town.”

The House bill only al­loc­ates funds through Sept. 30, which is the last day of Fisc­al Year 2014. Ro­gers ac­know­ledged Con­gress won’t be in ses­sion much more be­fore than, thus mak­ing the chances of a com­prom­ise between the two cham­bers rather un­likely.

“I nev­er give up on hope, but it’s pretty slim,” he said.

Obama re­it­er­ated Fri­day that he would be sure to veto the le­gis­la­tion any­how, say­ing House Re­pub­lic­ans are “try­ing to pass the most ex­treme and un­work­able ver­sions of a bill that they already know is go­ing nowhere.”

But Boehner cast the blame back across the aisle.

“If Pres­id­ent Obama needs these re­sources,” Boehner said in a state­ment after the bill passed, “he will urge Sen­ate Demo­crats to put polit­ics aside, come back to work, and ap­prove our bill. There are also steps the pres­id­ent can take to ad­dress this crisis with­in the law, and without fur­ther le­gis­lat­ive ac­tion. Every day the pres­id­ent and his party fail to act is an­oth­er day this crisis con­tin­ues.”

In fact, Boehner, his GOP lead­er­ship team, bor­der-area Re­pub­lic­ans, and oth­er mem­bers wanted to be able to say to con­stitu­ents over the re­cess that they, at least, had taken some ac­tion to deal with the crisis. The House was to be­gin its re­cess after Fri­day night’s votes.

And some Re­pub­lic­ans dur­ing the floor de­bates lead­ing up to the votes Fri­day night were mak­ing a point that they at least stuck around Wash­ing­ton on Fri­day to get their bills passed — delay­ing the start of their five-week sum­mer re­cess — while the Sen­ate left town without passing a re­sponse to the bor­der crisis.

“Be­cause we are work­ing today — some­how we are dys­func­tion­al? That’s an ab­surdity,” said Rep. Dav­id Jolly, R-Fla. “What’s dys­func­tion­al is the oth­er side of this Cap­it­ol, and the oth­er end of Pennsylvania Av­en­ue.”

But Obama de­scribed the two meas­ures as merely “par­tis­an mes­sage bills on par­tis­an lines that don’t ac­tu­ally solve prob­lems.” And Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi com­plained that House Re­pub­lic­ans “have lost their way” and missed an op­por­tun­ity for com­prom­ise.

Along with the ad­ded spend­ing for Na­tion­al Guard activ­it­ies, tweaks from the ini­tial Thursday ver­sions were also made to the por­tion of the sup­ple­ment­al bill ad­dress­ing a 2008 anti-traf­fick­ing law, which has been a key stick­ing point for House Re­pub­lic­ans.

The new lan­guage still re­quires Cent­ral Amer­ic­an chil­dren to be offered vol­un­tary re­mov­al after cross­ing the bor­der, just like those from con­tigu­ous coun­tries. However, about 16 pages of the ini­tial emer­gency sup­ple­ment­al were gut­ted, slim­ming down the bill’s pro­ced­ur­al lan­guage to mir­ror one au­thored by Rep. John Carter, R-Texas.

Sig­ni­fic­ant re­vi­sions also were made to the second meas­ure deal­ing with Obama’s De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals — which House GOP lead­ers had ex­ten­ded as a car­rot to con­ser­vat­ives like Sen. Ted Cruz who want to re­peal the pro­gram to gain their sup­port on the sup­ple­ment­al spend­ing.

The changes re­turned more mus­cu­lar lan­guage pulled from earli­er le­gis­la­tion au­thored by Rep. Mar­sha Black­burn, R-Tenn. As it stood Thursday, that bill would have pro­hib­ited the ad­min­is­tra­tion and any fed­er­al agency from is­su­ing “guid­ance, memor­andums, reg­u­la­tions, policies, or oth­er sim­il­ar in­stru­ments” to “newly au­thor­ize de­ferred ac­tion” for un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants.

But the ori­gin­al ver­sion as writ­ten by spon­sor Black­burn was tough­er, in that it pro­hib­ited spe­cif­ic types of fund­ing and such things as deny­ing any un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants on pro­ba­tion tem­por­ary per­mis­sion to work in the coun­try. That lan­guage has been re­turned.

The Black­burn bill also spe­cific­ally pro­hib­its the ad­min­is­tra­tion from spend­ing any funds on new ap­plic­a­tions for DACA. Thursday’s bill in­cluded no such pro­vi­sion.

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