House leadership removed its border security bill from this week’s schedule, and while the official word was the bill was scrapped due to the weather and short week, House Republicans acknowledge that there remain issues to be worked out.
“We’re going to continue to talk to our members about these issues,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told reporters Tuesday following the GOP Conference’s weekly 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.”
“So we’re going to have to walk through all of this with our members. And when we’re ready to move we will,” he added.
Conservatives have pointed to lack of tough interior enforcement in the bill and concerns that the Senate has not dealt with the House legislation defunding President Obama’s executive amnesty.
One of the measure’s most vocal critics, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) a leader among conservative immigration hawks, recently itemized his problems with the bill.
It does not end catch-and-release; it does not require mandatory detention and return; it does not include worksite enforcement; it does not close dangerous asylum and national security loopholes; it does not cut-off access to federal welfare; and it does not require completion of the border fence. Surprisingly, it delays and weakens the longstanding unfulfilled statutory requirement for a biometric entry-exit visa tracking system.
Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), a founding member of the newly formed conservative House Freedom Caucus, spoke to reporters after leaving the House Republican conference meeting Tuesday morning. He said he remains concerned about policies including “catch and release” and would like to see an interior bill moved in tandem with a border bill.
He added that be does not think the border bill would have passed if it had come to the floor Wednesday as originally scheduled.
“I think that there was an informal whip that has been going on over the last few days and I don’t think it went the way they wanted it to go,” Salmon told reporters.
Indeed, according to Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) it was the Freedom Caucus that helped to get the bill off the schedule.
“The communications were made to the House leadership by our Freedom Caucus last week, and all of the sudden this week you see the bill has been delayed,” Brooks, who is not a founding member but an attendee of the meetings — which are said to boast up to 40 participants — said.
“We spoke as a group and we all feel very strongly,” Salmon added.
According to Salmon, the caucus’ conversation with Leadership on the bill is still in the early stages.
“I don’t think anything has been resolved but I think that we’re tired of trying to be too too cute by half,” he said. “Playing these bait and switch moves and sending something over there and then conveniently trading it for allowing the president’s order to go through. That’s no something we’re interested in doing.”
Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a leadership ally, told reporters Tuesday morning that part of the new conversation is the idea of getting additional “companion” immigration legislation out of the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over interior enforcement.
“I think there is a big misunderstanding the the border security bill can handle internal enforcement as well. It simply can’t. [House Homeland Security Chairman Michael] McCaul (R-TX) doesn’t have that jurisdiction. But that doesn’t mean those other things aren’t moving,” he said.
Cole said that the delay was a way for the members to “catch our breath,” but said that they are not “talking specific dates yet, but I think it will come soon.”