• Border Crisis Update
  • August 5, 2014
  • Law Firm: McDonald Hopkins LLC - Cleveland Office
  • What was once considered must pass legislation - to deal with the crisis on the border with Mexico - is now in disarray in both chambers. In the House, Republican leaders are hoping to take a second whack at passing an emergency border-funding package, after they suddenly backed off a planned vote Thursday afternoon amid discontent within their own ranks.

    The legislation had been unlikely to advance in the Senate, and already had been ticketed for a presidential veto. But the decision to pull the $659 million measure represented a major embarrassment for Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team—especially for Rep. Steve Scalise. He does not officially become majority whip until Friday, but he and his new whip team had made this the first bill in which they had become actively engaged in vote-gathering.

    After telling members the chamber was finished for the week, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy reversed course and said on the floor that it was still "possible" that there would be votes on the measures. House Republicans had a closed-door meeting at 3:00 p.m. Thursday and plan to have another gathering Friday at 9:00 a.m. to figure out the next steps and discuss legislative changes made by the leadership to lure conservatives.

    The decision to pull the bill from consideration came despite a carrot extended to reluctant conservatives to back the spending bill in exchange for a second vote later Thursday on a GOP measure to rein in President Obama's discretionary authority to defer deportations.

    That is something hard-liners, including Sen. Ted Cruz, have been insisting should be part of any border-crisis legislation, even though it is not directly related to the crisis.

    But conservatives Thursday objected that language in the second bill, to freeze any expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, wasn't tough enough.

    To address the concerns, leaders are considering going back to an original version of the DACA bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. However, Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., said he and others are putting together their own proposed changes.

    That bill, as it stood Thursday, would prohibit the administration and any federal agency from issuing any "guidance, memorandums, regulations, policies, or other similar instruments" to "newly authorize deferred action" for undocumented immigrants, or authorize them to work in the country.

    If nothing else, the House passage of its own crisis funding bill was seen as giving House Republicans room to claim over the next weeks that they at least did something before their break to address the surge of tens of thousands of undocumented minors from Central America pouring into the U.S.—even if what was accomplished was a one-chamber bill.

    But the measure is a far cry from the $3.7 billion request Obama gave to Congress earlier this month.

    In the Senate, things are equally dysfunctional. A $2.7 billion bill to deal with the border crisis went down on a 50 to 44 procedural vote that required 60 votes to carry. The failure and the Senate's impending departure for August recess, which leaves no time for Congress to resolve legislative differences, make it appear certain that Obama will not see a dime of the supplemental funding for what both sides agree is a crisis of significant proportions.

    Democrats cast the bill's failure as an urgent mistake, and they predicted that without the supplemental funding the administration would have to move money from other government accounts to cover the cost of managing the border crisis.

    The bill went down for a number of reasons, including Republican frustration that Majority Leader Harry Reid blocked amendments, but also because the GOP wanted to see significant policy changes in the law, including rolling back the president's 2012 order to defer legal action against immigrant children, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

    The failure of the Senate bill means that the Senate will adjourn for the August recess without addressing the border crisis.