CAPITOL HILL - As House Republicans leaders scrambled to toughen up their border bills to win the support of their most conservative members, Democratic President Barack Obama blasted Congress for failing to send him an emergency funding measure to sign before lawmakers leave for a five-week August recess.
House Republicans began Friday with a closed meeting in the basement of the U.S. Capitol, one day after a failed effort to pass a supplemental funding bill in response to an influx of children from Central America. Even the most conservative members emerged optimistic that the two border bills would now be changed to win the 218 votes needed to pass. Republican lawmaker Michele Bachmann said the bills now do what a core group of conservative Republicans wants:
“Stopping the invasion of illegal foreign nationals into our country,” she said.
No action in Senate
The Democratic-run Senate left town without passing a border bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blasted House Republicans for adding to the agenda a second border bill that would end an Obama administration policy of allowing hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children years ago to stay.
“House Republicans will vote to deport children who have been living in the United States their entire lives, all in a pathetic attempt to appease the Tea Party,” he said.
President Obama criticized House members for crafting border legislation they know will never be taken up in the Senate and that he has said he would veto.
“House Republicans, as we speak, are trying to pass the most extreme and unworkable versions of a bill that they already know is going nowhere,” he said.
The president said Congress is leaving him no choice but to act on his own.
“I am going to have to act alone because we don’t have resources. We have already been very clear, we have run out of money,” he said.
Watch related video report by VOA's Celia Mendoza and Ramon Taylor
Stopping the flow
Republican lawmakers blame the president for contributing to the influx of 57,000 children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras this year, saying his rhetoric about immigration reform has caused confusion, which criminal trafficking gangs have exploited. Republican Congressman Tom Cole said the right thing to do is to send a clear signal to deter children from making the dangerous journey to America.
“So we need to stop this flow. We need to do in a humane and appropriate way,” he said.
House Democrats took to the floor in large numbers to oppose the border bills, calling them harsh and mean-spirited towards desperate children. Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez said Hispanic voters would remember the way Republicans treated the Central American children for many elections to come:
“Because the way you treat one of us today is the way you have treated all of us, and we will remember that,” he said.
Analysts say the president will likely have to shift funds to provide food and shelter for the children at the border, and that members of Congress will likely face the border issue again when they return in September.