CAPITOL HILL - The U.S. House of Representatives plans to vote Thursday on an emergency funding bill to help deal with the crisis of tens of thousand of children from Central America who have crossed the border into the United States this year. Analysts say the House bill is not likely to win support in the Senate, leaving Congress at a stalemate with only three legislative days left until the August recess.
House Republicans filed a $659 million supplemental funding bill to assist U.S. authorities at the border - much less than the $3.7 billion President Barack Obama requested. Republican House Speaker John Boehner predicted the bill will pass his chamber, he acknowedged that passage is by no means assured.
Some Conservative Republicans expressed support for the bill, saying the funding is targeted and temporary. Republican Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis:
“It is also very tidy in the way it directs the use of those monies: to reimburse the National Guard for helping on the border, for sending back to their homeland those young people who most recently came into this country illegally," said Lummis.
But others including Republican Congressman Steve King said the package sends the wrong message and simply gives members political cover before they leave for the August recess. King blamed President Obama for the ongoing crisis, and said the U.S. has to send the children back.
“If the right message comes out of the White House, it could be brought to a stop," said King.
Most Democratic lawmakers, in both the House and the Senate, would like to approve more funding. They also object to a part of the House bill that would change protections given in a 2008 anti-trafficking law to speed up deportations. Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison:
“It is the weakening of the due process protection for vulnerable children who fled murder, violence and killing, and now we are just going to return them back to that?" Asked Ellison.
Almost all of the children coming over now are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, countries plagued by drug-related gang violence.
Democrats have the majority in the Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid said if the House passes the border bill, he would like to attach the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform bill to the House measure.
But House Speaker Boehner immediately rejected that idea, and accused Reid of trying to derail the House bill. The House has not passed comprehensive immigration reform legislation and has no plans to take it up. Analysts say it would come close to a miracle if the House and Senate were to both pass compatible border funding bills before the five-week August break.