House Republicans pulled their embattled immigration legislation on Thursday, after failing to find enough Republicans to vote for the pared-down funding bill. The embarrassing defeat for Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) greatly increases the odds that the House will not do anything to act on the border crisis before leaving Washington for its August recess.
The Republican majority will hold a conference meeting at 3pm EST, after which House leaders will announce whether they will try again to hold a vote.
The House had planned to vote on two separate measures before leaving town: A $659 million funding bill to respond to the humanitarian crisis at the border, and a bill that would bar President Obama from expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which grants temporary work permits and relief from deportation for some young immigrants. But House leaders failed to gather the 218 votes needed to move forward.
Ironically, Speaker Boehner — who, one day earlier, advanced his plan to sue President Obama for allegedly exceeding his authority with executive orders — urged President Obama to act alone on securing the border. In a statement, Boehner and fellow House leaders Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Steve Scalise (R-LA), and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), said:
This situation shows the intense concern within our conference – and among the American people – about the need to ensure the security of our borders and the president’s refusal to faithfully execute our laws. There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries. For the past month, the House has been engaged in intensive efforts to pass legislation that would compel the president to do his job and ensure it can be done as quickly and compassionately as possible. Through an inclusive process, a border bill was built by listening to members and the American people that has the support not just of a majority of the majority in the House, but most of the House Republican Conference. We will continue to work on solutions to the border crisis and other challenges facing our country.
The House’s failure to gather enough votes for the bill represents a huge defeat in the first legislative test for McCarthy, the new majority leader, and Scalise, the new whip. The pair were apparently outmaneuvered by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who reportedly met with more than a dozen House Republicans on Wednesday night to press them to oppose leadership’s bill.
Even if the House had passed either bill, neither would have had any chance of becoming law. The $659 million in the House bill fell far short of the $3.7 billion President Obama had requested to confront the the growing funding crisis at the border, as well as the $2.7 billion in the bill advanced by the Senate on Wednesday. Additionally, as David Rogers pointed out in Politico, the bill contained very little money for hiring additional immigration judges, and no money for legal representation for the children at the border. Instead, it focused on expediting the deportation process by mandating that children coming from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala face a court hearing within a week of being screened by child welfare officials, and that the judge make a ruling within 72 hours of the end of the hearing.
The White House had vowed that President Obama would veto the House bill if it somehow reached his desk, saying in a statement that it “could make the situation worse, not better.”
The second bill, which would have barred President Obama from taking an executive action expanding DACA, existed purely to placate Tea Party conservatives who did not want to vote for leadership’s funding bill. As a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent before the vote, “If the House passed the DACA provision, it would go straight into the trash and never get a vote.”
This story has been updated.
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