By Matt Fuller, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)
WASHINGTON — With inclement weather grounding planes across the country Monday, GOP leaders pulled a border security bill from the floor schedule this week, citing the weather and an already condensed schedule.
One day later, though there are no blizzards conveniently scheduled for next week, Speaker John Boehner wasn’t about to commit to a timeline for resurrecting the border bill — a delay that some hard-line conservatives are already chalking up as a victory.
“We’re going to continue to talk to our members about these issues,” Boehner said following a Tuesday morning conference meeting. “When you look at it, it wasn’t the border bill itself. Frankly, it was issues that weren’t even in the committee’s jurisdiction.”
The Ohio Republican was asked when the House would vote on the contentious border bill, but that wasn’t the question he answered. “We’re going to have to walk through all of this with our members, and when we’re ready to move, we will,” he said.
Boehner acknowledged that leaders had already faced a couple of revolts in the early weeks of the 114th Congress. “Yeah, there have been a couple of stumbles,” he said, referring to an abortion bill leaders pulled last week and the border bill they pulled this week — but he said it was all in an effort to listen to the American people.
“It’s all about working with our members, listening to our members, and working through what are some very difficult issues,” he said.
But as Republicans continue to work through the issues on the border bill, and as many rank-and-file members maintain that pulling the border bill was a reflection of the weather cutting an already shortened week shorter, conservatives coming out of the GOP conference meeting Tuesday claimed they were the real storm that brought down the border bill.
“I know there were several people who raised concerns with us moving forward this fast,” Rep. Raul R. Labrador told CQ Roll Call.
Specifically, Labrador said conservatives were concerned that the Department of Homeland Security funding bill still hadn’t been taken up in the Senate, nor had a number of immigration proposals been heard in the House Judiciary Committee.
“It sounds like they’re going to wait on the Senate to work their will on the DHS funding bill, which is what we should have been doing all along,” Labrador said.
The Idaho Republican said some of the credit for holding up the border security bill belonged to the new group conservatives have been putting together for the last few weeks, the House Freedom Caucus.
The HFC held its first official meeting Monday night, and while the roughly 40-member pow-wow was supposed to be about bylaws, the meeting ended up largely being about immigration and the border security bill.
“We have 40 conservatives with 40 different ideas,” Labrador said, explaining the rationale for the new group. “And we’re less successful because we’re taking 40 different ideas to the leadership. It’s better to have 40 conservatives working together to take one idea to the leadership.”
Whether those 40 conservatives can actually coalesce around a single idea may prove difficult, but Labrador said they were already having an impact on the border measure. The bill has been dubbed by Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul of Texas as “the toughest border security bill ever,” but many conservatives believe it doesn’t do enough to enforce immigration laws.
Other conservatives, like Mo Brooks of Alabama, just want to see whether GOP leaders will fight President Barack Obama on his executive action on immigration. “Whether the House and Senate leadership will live up to those representations, only time will tell,” Brooks said.
Indeed, many House Republicans are waiting to see what the Senate can pass on the DHS funding bill. The House-passed bill blocked the executive action, but it seems unlikely that Senate Republicans could find enough — or any — Democratic votes to go along with such a plan. And it seems just as unlikely that Obama would sign a measure effectively blocking his immigration action.
Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Carter of Texas said he planned to meet with his Senate counterparts, “this week or next,” to see what they could accomplish.
“We’re going to fund the Department of Homeland Security,” Carter said. “I can guarantee you.”
But while Republicans wait on the Senate, the question remains whether McCaul’s border security bill will make it out of the House, which could portend further action on immigration.
According to House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY), the border security bill was “alive and kicking.”
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr