A working group of lawmakers appointed by Speaker John Boehner released a set of recommendations to the House GOP conference Wednesday, including $1.5 billion in new spending and proposals to send the National Guard to the border and require the Obama administration to form a border security plan as tens of thousands of illegal alien children stream across the border.
The proposal faces an uncertain future, with congressional Democrats digging in with opposition to amending a 2008 human trafficking law that has been cited as an obstacle to deporting the children while the recommendations produced pockets of opposition on the right.
Several lawmakers said the plan was well-received by most Republicans in a closed-door meeting where Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), the leader of the working group, outlined policy recommendations in the plan.
“I think it was received pretty well,” said Rep. John Carter (R-TX), a member of the working group.
“It looks like a common sense approach, but I want to read the details,” said House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), a key player on immigration issues.
But detractors made their voices heard while leaving the meeting to reporters as well.
“Disappointing,” said Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), who traveled to Central America over the weekend with a delegation led by House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA). “They need to have more ideas.”
“In a perfect world where you could start legislation in the House and maybe improve it in the Senate and send it back to conference or on to the president, then most of what they proposed is pretty good. There’s some good ideas there, and there are things that would bring about a solution,” said Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a top immigration hawk. But “no one can answer how this gets to the president’s desk, gets a signature and produces a positive result,” he said.
The proposal was discussed at a small meeting of top conservatives hosted by King over breakfast before it was released. There to discuss his border security bill was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), a key conservative who was appointed to the border working group by Boehner, attended the meeting and said he was able to bring some of its participants around on the direction they were headed.
“I’ve got to say I think by-and-large it was very well-received. I participated in a meeting this morning with several of those conservatives before this meeting and Sen. Ted Cruz. I was able to clarify a lot of things, because there was a lot of misinformation out there,” Salmon said.
King raised what is a top concern on the right, that Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) would use the passage of the House bill to attach immigration language opposed in the House and send the bill back to Boehner, creating pressure on him to act on a broader measure.
“What’s missing is an understanding that anything we send over to the Senate leaves us vulnerable for them to attach on the Gang of Eight or parts of the Gang of Eight and send it back to us. So Harry Reid hangs the Gang of Eight around the neck of John Boehner, how long does John Boehner stand there with that around his neck before the pressure gets too great and then the rationale that we’re better off to pass something becomes too great to resist?” King said.
“The Speaker has made the commitment over and over and over again that anything with the Gang of Eight is dead on arrival and he will not conference anything with the Gang of Eight. That’s his commitment,” Salmon noted.
Salmon noted another objection, one that House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte has made, he said, that “that the president picks and chooses the laws that he wants to abide by. And that’s the other argument from some of the other conservatives, no matter what we pass, the president’s going to use his pen and his phone to do whatever he damn well pleases.”
Salmon said that House Republicans should still act, even if Obama won’t implement their bill.
“I think we have a responsibility to [act]. If the president decides he wants to not adhere to the law, then I think we take him to task with whatever mechanisms we’ve got to do that, whether it’s through lawsuits, or whether it’s through power of the purse. We need to exercise every option we’ve got. But still we’ve got a responsibility to legislate and do our jobs,” he said.
Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), a top proponent of comprehensive immigration reform, said he wants to see the House act to ensure the Obama administration doesn’t run out of money over the August recess for dealing with the crisis.
“I think there would be huge ramifications if we run out of money, and in August there is certainly that possibility,” Denham said.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said that he expects the working group’s proposal to amend the 2008 human trafficking law will encounter opposition from Democrats.
“I think that’s going to be one of the sticking points between the House and the Senate and the White House. I’m hopeful that they’ll eventually see the light on that. I think they initially made indications that they understood that, and that they were going to go along with that change, and then they backed off,” McCaul said.
Both McCaul and Granger predicted that the eventual bill would garner support of some number of Democrats, helping counteract the conservative opposition to reach a majority in support of the bill.
“We think we can get 218 votes. I think some Democrats will come along with us. We’ve included some Democrats in crafting our recommendations,” Granger said.