U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is accusing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of “making a deceitful and cynical attempt to derail” a Republican bill to bolster security at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The House plans to vote tomorrow on a $659 million emergency bill to address the influx of unaccompanied Central American children at the border. Republicans are trying to build support from some Tea Party-backed members who have resisted appeals for the spending.
Reid, a former boxer, threw a counter punch yesterday. He said if the House passes the bill and sends it to the Senate, he may attach Democrats’ immigration-law rewrite -- a comprehensive plan House Republicans refuse to consider. The Democratic-led Senate voted last year to pass the bill, which creates a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
“We’ve been looking for something to have a conference on” to start negotiations on the immigration measure, Reid of Nevada told reporters. “Maybe we could use that.”
Reid’s statement highlights the difficulty in passing any border legislation -- even in just one chamber.
Reid will need Republican support to pass a bill in the Senate, and it’s uncertain whether Boehner will get enough votes from Democrats to offset defections among his Republican members.
The Senate is set today to take a procedural vote on its short-term measure that would spend $2.7 billion to cope with the border emergency. President Barack Obama’s administration supports the bill, though it is less than the $3.7 billion sought by the president.
Several Republicans, including Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John McCain of Arizona and Orrin Hatch of Utah, said yesterday that they won’t vote to advance the measure.
’’It is obvious that Majority Leader Reid’s suggestion that the Senate could include comprehensive immigration reform in its border crisis bill is a blatant attempt to scuttle House Republicans’ good-faith efforts to pass legislation addressing the issue this week,’’ McCain, Graham and the other two Senate Republicans who helped write the comprehensive immigration bill -- Florida’s Marco Rubio and Arizona’s Jeff Flake -- said yesterday in a joint statement.
The four senators said they’d block any attempt by Reid to use the broader immigration bill as a vehicle to resolve House-Senate differences. Such a move by Reid would require the consent of all senators.
About 57,000 unaccompanied children were apprehended near the U.S.-Mexico border from Oct. 1, 2013, through June 15, double the total from the same time a year earlier. Most of the children are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Lawmakers have been wary about going home for a five-week break after this week without passing a border bill. Two agencies may run out of money next month to address the crisis, and it’s unclear how much flexibility there is to shift funds from other accounts.
Boehner told reporters he thinks there will be “sufficient support” for the House measure, though there’s more work to do.
Few Democrats will support the House border proposal because Republicans are pairing the funds with a provision that would make it easier to deport children from the three Central American nations. The Senate measure leaves intact a 2008 law that was enacted to protect the children from sex trafficking.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said in a statement yesterday that the proposal to speed up child deportations would create “a particular danger to child victims of gang violence and human trafficking.”
The House plan is opposed by Heritage Action for America, a group aligned with the small-government Tea Party movement, because the measure doesn’t attempt to repeal Obama’s move to block certain young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children before June 15, 2007.
Representative Peter Roskam, an Illinois Republican who as chief deputy whip helps count votes for his chamber, said the count was “fluid” when asked yesterday if there was enough support for the measure.
“Any time you’re doing something that has the element of an emergency to it and it has Barack Obama, borders and more spending, people are going to be very cautious,” Roskam said in an interview.
Reid’s statement about attaching the comprehensive immigration bill tapped into the skittishness among many House Republicans about passing any form of immigration legislation. They’re wary of backing themselves into conference negotiations on the Senate-passed bill.
Boehner moved swiftly to rule that out.
“Let me be as clear as I can be with Senator Reid,” the Ohio Republican said in a statement. “The House of Representatives will not take up the Senate immigration reform bill or accept it back from the Senate in any fashion.”
The Senate border bill is S. 2648, while that chamber’s comprehensive immigration-law revision is S. 744.