The White House threatened Wednesday to veto the $659 million border bill crafted by House Republicans, calling it an insufficient bill that places “arbitrary and unrealistic demands” on the nation’s immigration system.
In a statement of administration policy, the White House said advisers would recommend President Obama veto the bill if it reached his desk.
“H.R. 5230 could make the situation worse, not better,” the administration said.
The White House used the veto threat to blast House Republicans for failing to take up a comprehensive immigration reform measure, and argued their border bill would undercut protections for migrant children while setting arbitrary timelines for processing immigration cases that could lead to backlogs.
The veto threat came just hours before the House and Senate were set to hold dueling votes on competing border packages, on the next to last day of legislative work before a five-week August recess.
In the Senate, Democrats are having a hard time mustering enough support to overcome an expected GOP filibuster for their $3.5 billion spending bill, which includes $2.7 billion for the border and additional funds to address wildfires out West and to bolster Israel’s “Iron Dome” rocket defense. That bill cleared one procedural hurdle Wednesday, but is not expected to advance any further.
The House Republican bill is much more limited, and does not provide funding for Israel or the $615 million requested by the president to fight wildfires, which the White House noted in its veo threat.
The bill “fails to provide the necessary resources for the Department of Agriculture to address imminent wildfire suppression and rehabilitation needs without resorting to damaging transfers from other critical forest health and fire preparedness priorities,” the statement said.
The White House also criticized a provision that would waive environmental restrictions near the border for Customs and Border Protection activities.
“We can assure you that this bill would make the problem worse,” said principal deputy press secretary Eric Schultz. "It would do so because children would be deported without due process and undercut public safety by shifting resources away from deporting criminals."
GOP leaders are still working to line up support for their border bill, as the vast majority of House Democrats are expected to oppose it.
Some conservatives are balking at sending the president any new funding for the border, leaving GOP leaders with very little margin for error when it comes to rounding up votes.
—This post was last updated at 4:42 p.m.
Timothy Cama contributed