House Passes $694 Million U.S. Border Plan Amid Criticism

The House passed a $694 million U.S.- Mexico border security bill that President Barack Obama said Republicans “know is going nowhere” as Congress leaves for a five-week break with no agreement on border funding.

The legislation, passed 223-189, would provide funds to address the influx of children at the U.S.-Mexico border, including $35 million to reimburse Texas for the use of National Guard troops. It also would speed the deportation of Central American children arriving at the border.

“There is a crisis at our southern border and it is a crisis of the president’s own making,” said Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican. “Since the president isn’t taking the serious action needed to secure the southern border, the House is doing so today.”

Tonight’s House vote on the bill, H.R. 5230, came after a revolt by some Republicans forced Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and his new leadership team to cancel a vote scheduled for yesterday on a $659 million plan.

The Senate didn’t advance its $2.7 billion measure yesterday and left Washington today. Both proposals are short of the $3.7 billion Obama sought to cope with about 57,000 unaccompanied children who arrived at the border from Oct. 1, 2013, through June 15. That was double the total from the same time a year earlier.

Earlier today, Obama told reporters at the White House that House Republicans were “trying to pass the most extreme and unworkable versions of a bill that they already know is going nowhere” as neither he nor the Senate would endorse it.

‘Message Bill’

“They’re not even trying to actually solve the problem; this is a message bill” they can take to their constituents, the president said.

Without a plan enacted by Congress, Obama said his administration will have to shift funds to cover the cost of the migrant surge during lawmakers’ break.

“We’ve run out of money,” the president said.

After the House vote, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement that the bill “does not responsibly address the problem of unaccompanied children apprehended at the border.”

The plan passed tonight includes changes sought by some members who met with Tea Party-backed Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas two days ago to discuss opposition to the earlier proposal on grounds it didn’t do enough to secure the border.

Migrant Children

Democrats said Republicans made the bill more harmful to migrant children, most of whom are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

“For Republicans to continue on this march because of the pressure of their far, far right means they aren’t interested in getting things done,” said Representative Xavier Becerra, a California Democrat.

Senate Democrats’ bill, which failed to advance on a 50-44 vote with 60 needed, didn’t include language making it easier to deport Central American children.

The House has refused to take up a comprehensive immigration-law revision passed by the Senate last year, S.744, which would provide a path to citizenship for many of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

Republicans have been trying to woo Hispanic voters after 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won just 27 percent of the Latino vote.

Voluntary Return

The House bill passed tonight, though, seeks to expedite deportations of Central American children by revising a 2008 law that was enacted to protect them from sex trafficking. It would allow such children to be immediately returned to their home country if they leave voluntarily.

Those who don’t volunteer to be deported would be given a hearing within 14 days. Lawmakers removed a provision that Representative John Carter, a Texas Republican, said could have given Mexican children an increased chance of remaining in the U.S.

One Democrat, Henry Cuellar of Texas, voted with Republicans for the bill. Voting with Democrats against it were Republicans Steve Fincher of Tennessee, Paul Broun of Georgia, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Walter Jones of North Carolina.

The House tonight also passed, 216-192, Representative Marsha Blackburn’s separate proposal to block Obama from expanding a 2012 policy to protect from deportation certain undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children before 2007.

The bill, H.R. 5272, would prevent funds from being used to process new applications under the 2012 executive order or to issue new work permits.

Some Republicans yesterday accused Cruz of meddling in House business. Cruz, a Tea Party-backed lawmaker and potential presidential candidate in 2016, urged House Republicans to oppose leaders’ earlier border plan. Enough balked to force cancellation of yesterday’s vote.