WASHINGTON,D.C.–In the Speaker’s lobby just off the House floor, members of Congress were full of recriminations over how the border bill had just died–until it sprang back to life.
Now they have emerged from a last minute conference meeting vowing to “stay until we vote” and planning another meeting for tomorrow morning at 9:00 am, although it’s unclear what changes either to the legislative package or the support for the current one will occur in the meantime.
Inside the meeting, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) vowed that if need be, he would miss his son’s upcoming wedding to stay in Washington to pass the bill.
But other lawmakers were punchy.
“Well, let’s see, I’ve been bitching about this for, what, 15 months? Democrats want the votes and Republicans want cheap labor. They didn’t want to do anything with it, now they’re going to wait until the last minute? You know, I have a forum I’m supposed to be at, I can’t be, on this very subject,” Michigan Rep. Kerry Bentivolio said.
Earlier in the day, Speaker John Boehner had decided to pull the package and send lawmakers home without voting on anything related to the border. The decision was so final that multiple lawmakers, including the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Hal Rogers, were already at the airport getting ready to board flights home.
But a sudden and fierce backlash forced Boehner to rescind the decision and hold the nearly two-hour emergency meeting that prompted the decision to delay recess. In particular, members said that they could not abide leaving without at least trying to vote on the bill, which, if nothing else, would show where each member stood on the matter.
In the meeting, most Republicans expressed support for figuring out some way – any way – to pass a bill that is widely expected to go nowhere but was hoped to give the GOP a political advantage over the recess.
“Everybody wanted to stay and everybody wanted to get to 218,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), an ally of Boehner’s.
But in order to secure greater support, changes are likely to be required to the bill.
“I can tell you there were a lot of suggestions of how it would look different. I think that the piece that deals with the 2008 law fix may look a little different. I think that the piece that deals with DACA itself may look a little bit different. At the end of the day, I think that the ideas that were originally proposed are just going to be made stronger,” said Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), adding that he does not believe there will be a “completely new idea.”
Iowa Rep. Steve King, who helped derail the initial attempt at the border bill, was positive about getting legislation that would be more palatable.
“We are a good working team in there, it didn’t start with acrimony and didn’t end with acrimony, and now we’ve got a little work to do, and I think we’ve got a shot to get’r done,” he said.
However, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), like King an ardent immigration hawk, said that even an amendment championed by King earlier in the debate would not be sufficient to secure his support for the package.
One issue that could come up is Boehner’s “three day” rule, requiring a delay between when new legislation is introduced and voted on on the House floor.
However, some lawmakers suggested the rule would not be an issue.
“You know, rules,” said Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL), shrugging his shoulders. “Those are procedural rules that can be waived.”
“It seems appropriate to provide flexibility to our leadership team,” a leadership aide said lightly after the meeting was over. “We think of same-day authority as legislative yoga.”
Georgia Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, who supported both bills, told Breitbart News that one of the reasons for the difficulty in moving the legislation forward has been “misinformation.”
“What we’re trying to do is take all the misinformation and make people understand it better,” he said. “So that’s what I think a lot of these people who have different interpretations about what some of this stuff says are going to sit down and talk about it — but there is just a lot of information going out — you know you’ve got people in the Senate getting involved in this.”
Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart — a member of Boehner’s border working group — echoed Westmoreland, telling reporters that some conservative members might be “misunderstanding” the legislation.
“I believe, this is just me, I’m not talking about what was said in there, I believe there are some folks who have some concerns about the specifics of the bill that I think just some clarification about what’s in the bill could be very helpful,” he said, adding that there might be some things that need to be “further refined,” though he would not specify what.
Leaving the meeting, GOP leadership expressed optimism.
“We have nowhere to go but up; it’s kind of like getting a stock when it’s low,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said, adding that “I wouldn’t want to be here if it was easy, anybody can just jump in.”
When asked by Breitbart News how he felt about his first whip count, Majority Whip Steve Scalise replied, “We’re still working. We’re gonna get this done.”
McCarthy and Scalise are expected to continue talking with interested members throughout the evening.
“This is far from our worst vote,” the leadership aide said.
Despite the optimism from some members, others were a bit salty about the current situation.
Louisiana Rep. John Fleming, who has been adamantly opposed to the border bill effort, sounded a disappointing tone at the way in which the meeting was mostly working off “emotion” and “cheering” over substance. He left saying he was still a “no.”