By Mike Lillis - 07/22/14 01:50 PM EDT
House Republicans should drop their demands for changes to a 2008 immigration law as part of Congress's emergency response to the border, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday.
The minority whip said there's simply no time to tackle such a thorny issue in the eight legislative days remaining before lawmakers are scheduled to leave Washington for a five-week August recess.
The comments arrive as Republicans are pushing changes to the 2008 law — known as the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act — to make it easier for law enforcement officials to deport Central American children amassing at the southern border.
President Obama, who has asked Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency funding, had initially asked for more powers to expedite the deportation process. Yet, in its official funding request, the administration did not mention changes to the 2008 law.
The discrepancy was not overlooked by Republicans, with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) accusing the White House of "backpedaling" under pressure from Democrats. On Tuesday, he suggested the opposition to changing the 2008 law could sink the entire funding package.
"I don’t believe the American people will support sending more money to the border unless both parties work together to address these policies and actually solve this problem," Boehner said in a statement.
"The lack of leadership from this White House, and President Obama’s refusal to stand up to critics in his own political party, are jeopardizing our ability to find common ground and help the kids who are caught in the middle of this crisis.”
Hoyer said he's not opposed to changes to the 2008 law, per se, but emphasized that the legislative calendar simply doesn't allow for that debate in the timely fashion he says the situation demands.
"It is a possibility. It's not necessarily something I'm for, but it is something that we could discuss. But it ought not to be in the context of holding up, and holding hostage, our responsibilities to these children in the process of the legislative debate," Hoyer said.
"That's a different debate that ought to be held, or can be held, but we ought to get these resources [first]."