They’ve pared it down and reduced the amount of spending in it, and now Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team are barreling ahead with a border crisis bill expected on the House floor Thursday.
The bill is expected to call for the National Guard to be sent to the border and change a 2008 law cited as a hinderence to deporting tens of thousands of children who have streamed across the southern U.S. border this year. It will not directly address President Obama’s threat to unilaterally expand his “DREAM Act” style amnesty to as many as 6 million illegal aliens.
“The House will act and pass a bill to solve the problem,” said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the incoming House Whip, leaving a suite of offices for GOP leadership Monday afternoon.
“We’re going to get to 218. I feel confident we’ll get a lot of Republican votes, and I think we’ll get some Democrat votes. I don’t think we’ll get the vast majority of Democrats, but we don’t need the vast majority of Democrats,” added Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), a close ally of Boehner’s.
The bill text is scheduled to be finally released tomorrow after a closed-door conference meeting at which Boehner will lay out its provisions.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers said the spending level is “less than $1 billion” and only authorizes funds through the end of September. Stivers suggested that its policy provisions, which in draft forms included a border security package authored by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, had been pared back.
“It’s not like we did comprehensive immigration reform in a week, we did five tweaks. These are not major policy changes, they are things that allow us to address the current border crisis, secure our border, and start to deal with some of the people that are here and coming here, especially the minor children – and deal with that issue and send them back to their parents which is where children belong,” Stivers said.
Boehner and other top GOP officials have long signaled they will not include language sought by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and others to take on Obama over his threats to expand “deferred” prosecution of illegal aliens to as many as 6 million individuals.
Monday, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), the chairman of the House Rules Committee, appeared to cite the omission as a sign that the House was pursuing a plan that could be taken up by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“We’ve tried to avoid – evidently in one case a very controversial piece that could be considered a deal-breaker with the senate. And so I think when the Senate sees this and the American people, they’ll realize somebody negotiated in good faith. And that was called House Republicans,” Sessions said.
In reality, there’s slim to no chance the Senate will take up the GOP bill, and the House Republicans’ plan to bring it to the House floor Thursday – the last day of session before Congress departs for the summer – isn’t particularly designed to facilitate bicameral action.
There were signs Tuesday that the pruned bill had softened opposition on the right flank of the GOP conference.
Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) said if the bill is written as advertised, it could be a smart play.
“If the only spending we have to approve is just until the end of the fiscal year, which is Sept. 30, then I just suspect it’s simply going to be a little bit of padding of cash to make sure that we don’t get to mid-August and the president says all of a sudden that the ‘country is now breaking down and I can’t enforce the border now because the House of Representatives didn’t do their job,'” he said.
“From the standpoint of leaving for the August recess, I do think it’s a smart thing to take off the table any claims the president may have that we have left the Department of Homeland Security high and dry, and HHS as well. I think that’s smart,” Fleming added.
Finally, some GOP lawmakers said House leadership is still open to a non-binding resolution expressing how Obama could secure the border on his own.