House Speaker John Boehner’s new Republican leadership team will get its first test today in what may be a close vote on funds to address the migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Boehner and his deputies are urging Republicans to vote for a $659 million border-funding plan after a House vote yesterday endorsing a lawsuit over President Barack Obama’s implementation of the 2010 health-care law. Leaders were still working to get votes for the border bill.
The vote will showcase the effectiveness of Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, who is taking over as majority leader, and of Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who replaces McCarthy as majority whip, Republicans’ chief vote-counter. McCarthy replaces Eric Cantor of Virginia, who lost a primary election to a Tea Party-backed rival.
“I think we’re there,” House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers of Kentucky said after a meeting of Republican leaders today. They decided last night to schedule a vote on a second immigration-related bill sought by a number of party members.
The border vote is a tough one for some Republicans aligned with the small-government Tea Party because it combines government spending with the politically difficult issue of immigration. In the past few years, Boehner has had to rely on Democratic support to help pass some measures, including a debt-limit increase and a farm bill.
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 them are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
About a dozen of the most reluctant House Republicans met late yesterday in Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz’s office over pizza and Dr. Pepper to discuss strategy about the House border bill, which Cruz opposes.
At the same time, Republican leaders met in leadership offices on their final gambit to win support from reluctant Republicans for the border measure, H.R. 5230.
They decided the House will also consider a measure that would block Obama from expanding a 2012 executive order giving certain undocumented children relief from immigration proceedings. That measure, H.R. 5272, was lined up for a vote today after the border bill.
The House border bill contains a provision backed by Republicans to speed the return of the children to their native countries, a measure not contained in Senate Democrats’ $2.7 billion border proposal. The disagreement between the chambers means Congress almost certainly will leave today for its five-week break without agreement on a plan.
Boehner told reporters July 29 that leaders had “a little more work to do” to gain support for the border bill.
Obama’s administration said the president would veto the House border bill because it would “make the situation worse, not better.”
Some Democrats are considering voting for the measure.
“It’s not terrible,” said Representative Collin Peterson, a Minnesota Democrat. “I don’t know if it does everything that needs to be done, but some of the things it does need to be done.”
The Senate advanced its emergency spending plan yesterday to cope with the surge in child migrants.
“I really do hope we pass this bill; not spending money won’t save money,” Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, said following the vote.
The Senate measure, which has the Obama administration’s support, is ripe to become the latest casualty of a partisan dispute over amendments. Republicans want a chance to add language to the proposal that, like the House plan, would make it easier to return Central American children to their home countries.
The House vote to sue Obama over the health-care law’s implementation was a near-party-line tally of 225-201. Republicans contend the president exceeded his constitutional powers in delaying one of the law’s central requirements on his own, without a vote of Congress.
Obama has twice delayed at least part of the law’s mandate that companies with at least 50 workers provide affordable insurance or pay a fine of as much as $3,000 per employee.
The law lets the administration set the starting date for an information reporting rule needed to enforce the rule, and businesses said they weren’t prepared for the paperwork.
House Republicans have voted more than 50 times to repeal or delay all or part of Obamacare. A lawsuit will allow Boehner to escalate his objections to Obama’s actions without giving in to some Tea Party-backed members of his party who want the House to consider impeaching the president, a move he has ruled out. The measure authorizing a lawsuit is H.Res. 676.
The Senate border-funding bill, S. 2648, also includes $225 million for missile-defense aid to Israel and $615 million to fight wildfires in the western U.S., bringing the total to almost $3.6 billion.
Democrats added the wildfire and missile defense money in part to attract Republican support.
The $659 million provided by the House bill, H.R. 5230, initially was a higher amount. Leaders last week proposed $1.5 billion, then trimmed the plan to less than $1 billion through the end of December. The final figure covers spending through September.
Republican lawmakers say the method of crafting the bill is a change from leaders’ former top-down style of decision-making, and that it ultimately will gather more votes than they would have had otherwise.
“That is night-and-day worth of different,” said Georgia Republican Rob Woodall. “The bill that you ask me to create and support is going to be met more enthusiastically than the bill you tell me to support, and that is a universally held belief in this conference.”
Though McCarthy has led the vote counting, Scalise and his new deputies are part of the operation.
As he finished his campaign for whip in June, Scalise gave a token of support to his allies. While a leather whip is the traditional gift to deputies from the House leader in charge of “whipping” support for legislation, Scalise handed out baseball bats.
It was a thank-you present for those who went to bat to help him get elected as majority whip, though some have read more into it.
“That doesn’t bother me,” said Peter King, a Long Island Republican who has frequently battled with the House’s Tea Party wing. “Listen, I come from New York, the tougher the better. At least we’ll get things done.”