In a free-wheeling discussion that touched on dozens of proposals for how to address the tens of thousands of illegal immigrant children streaming across the southern U.S. borders, one thread connected the calls to add to or change a border crisis proposal from GOP leadership: President Barack Obama.
The proposals included trying to prevent a future executive amnesty by Obama, telling the president what he should do to enforce the law in a non-binding resolution, and even putting impeachment on the table.
Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) told colleagues that the House should pass legislation with new steps to secure the border, and tell Obama if he didn’t implement it, they would impeach him.
“He either enforces the laws on the books–as he was hired and elected to do–or he leaves Congress no option. This is not our choice, this is the President’s choice and I would advise him to uphold the law on the books,” Yoho said in a written statement after the meeting.
“People were hissing at that because they don’t want to go there,” said a GOP member who was in the room.
At the other end of the spectrum, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), a top proponent of comprehensive immigration reform, expressed befuddled frustration with conservative colleagues resistant to passing the package put together by a working group of members appointed by Speaker John Boehner.
“I have all my ideas about this, a lot of you guys – what you tell me is, we gotta secure the border and send ’em home. Now you have a chance to secure the border and send ’em home, but you’re saying we can’t do it,” he said, to laughter.
There were divergent views from lawmakers on whether the meeting produced a strong impetus to pass a bill in the House next week, with some lawmakers saying the conference had achieved a consensus on moving forward while critics of the border package raised questions about whether it could secure the necessary votes.
The discussion is, at this point, about optics, since it’s widely regarded that the House bill will not be enacted into law.
“Whatever we do, we gotta figure Reid isn’t going to go ahead with it, so basically it’s a message bill, well we’re going to go tell our constituents, ‘well here’s what we’ve done, Reid won’t do it.’ So this is kind of just political blame shifting,” said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL).
One option discussed is a resolution outlining steps Obama should take to secure the border.
“Trent Franks mentioned he has a resolution that specifically lists all the ways the president has failed and invited the crisis, lists a number of things that the president could actually do to solve the crisis. I think there’s a lot of sense that that’s a good idea, right out of the gate, to do that. And then whatever you do after that, we’ll see,” DeSantis said.
Another was addressing the push to address a future executive action by Obama in a stand-alone bill.
“We could at least put it on the floor separately. That’s what my recommendation has been to the task force: if you don’t want to put it in the bill, at least let us vote on it,” said Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX).
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said he supported addressing Obama’s executive actions in the package. “I think we should, but we’ll see. I think we should, but I would vote for it anyway. Whatever comes out is a step in the right direction. You can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” he said.
Members remarked about a very wide array of ideas being proposed.
“Every subject under the moon” was discussed, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) said.
“Oh, yeah – too many,” King said when asked if many views were expressed.