By Mike Lillis - 07/09/14 01:06 PM EDT
House Democratic leaders are amplifying their calls for Republicans to take immediate action on President Obama's request for emergency funds on the southern border.
Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, emerged from a closed-door meeting of the group on Wednesday to say there's “a general consensus” that Congress should pass Obama's $3.7 billion package immediately.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat who recently visited the border, described dismal conditions among the young detainees and urged Republicans to approve the emergency funding as soon as possible.
“It is important that the emergency supplemental is passed to include more judges, more resources for Border Patrol and border cities, [and] ICE officers, so the law can be adhered to,” Jackson Lee said.
The Democrats' calls for urgency are facing some hurdles across the aisle, where conservatives are already pushing back hard against Obama's request.
Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) said Wednesday that, despite GOP criticisms that Obama has habitually abused his executive authority, in the case of the border migrants “the president is not using the administrative capabilities that he has.”
“That’s the problem,” Fleming said.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), a Tea Party favorite often at odds with his leadership, also suggested the administration can tackle the crisis without congressional action.
“I think it’s a charade,” he said. “I think the president has set it up to make it look as though the only reason he’s not enforcing the border is that he doesn’t have the money, and that’s not accurate.”
On Wednesday, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) reiterated that he’s asking Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and a border working group, led by Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), to examine Obama's proposal and report back to GOP leaders about possible next steps.
“I'll await what they've got to say,” Boehner told reporters in the Capitol.
The border working group is expected to provide its first update to the House GOP conference on July 15.
Other top Republicans are wary that Obama's request — which includes $1.8 billion to provide “appropriate care” for the migrants and $1.1 billion to bolster border security — dedicates too much money to processing and not enough to discouraging the migrants to begin with.
Many Republicans, including Boehner, have urged Obama to call the National Guard to the border to help manage the crisis.
Fleming said that strategy would be in line with the growing sentiment “that we should move them back to the countries that they came from.”
“What we would want is solid border security, put the military or at least the National Guard on the border,” Fleming said. “That should be the first thing before we do anything else.”
Becerra was quick to reject those arguments, charging that, “Whoever's saying that doesn't recognize the crisis.”
He noted that border security is not what's lacking in a situation where the migrants are voluntarily turning themselves over to the authorities in hopes of getting asylum status.
“What will they [the National Guard] do to deter [people]?” Becerra asked. “All they'll do is be there the way the Border Patrol is ready to receive these folks. … So it's not only a false claim, it's a misunderstanding of the problem.”
The Democrats said the ultimate solution lies, not in whatever policy is adopted at the border, but in putting international pressure on certain Central American governments to root out corruption, tackle drug violence and stabilize conditions so residents won't want to leave to begin with.
“If you deter that, you don't have the crisis on the border,” Becerra said.
“We need action,” Becerra added. “We don't need people who are misguided in what they think we should do.”
Peter Schroeder and Cristina Marcos contributed.