CAPITOL HILL —
Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives are trying to resurrect a border funding bill they had abandoned Thursday after they failed to secure enough votes. The $659 million supplemental would respond to the crisis of tens of thousands of children from Central America who have crossed the border into the United States. After a chaotic day, House members were told to delay their five-week August recess to try to pass the border bill again on Friday.
The plan was for the Republican-led House to vote on a border spending bill early Thursday afternoon, and then for members to head for the exits for their long break. The House bill is much smaller than the $3.7 billion President Barack Obama has sought. It also calls for policy changes to make it easier to deport the migrant children. A rival bill in the Senate is bigger and does not make policy changes, but is not expected to pass before the recess. House Republican leaders had changed their bill, directing two-thirds of the funding to border security and law enforcement to try to win the support of the most conservative members of their party.
House Democrats made it clear that they would not support the bill, saying it does not contain enough money to provide food and shelter for the children. Democratic Congressman David Price:
“This is not a border security crisis. This is a humanitarian crisis. We don’t need to deploy the National Guard or surge our border capacity; because we are not failing to catch individuals as they cross, in fact these young people are turning themselves in," said Price.
After the debate, House leaders abruptly pulled the bill, leaving members in confusion and disarray. First, they were told they could leave for the recess. Republican Congressman Joe Barton told reporters he was on his way to catch a plane and speculated
“Well, we will have to deal with it when happens, and the president can shift money around, and I guess if we had to we could be called back for a dire emergency supplemental vote, for a day or two. In my opinion it is too bad we did not do it today," said Barton.
Moments later, House members got word that there might be votes later in the day. This was the angry and surprised reaction on the floor.
House Republicans met in the basement to try to find a path to an elusive majority. Republican Congressman Spencer Bachus said the House needs to find a bill members can agree on.
“We are going to stay here, I can tell you that. We are going to stay here until we have the votes," said Bachus.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the White House would be glad if the House approved much needed border funding - four weeks after the president asked for it.
“And the fact that House Republicans have waited literally until the very last day of their - of their session to even consider taking a vote on this is an indication that they’re not operating with the best interests of the American people in mind, that’s for sure," said Earnest.
Now it looks like the House will have an extra last day on Friday to make another attempt to pass a bill.