House Republicans are moving toward a vote on a slimmed-down border bill that would provide President Obama with less than $1 billion in funding to deal with the influx of child migrants.
While the details are still being finalized, Republicans emerged from a private meeting Friday saying that there was an overwhelming sense that the House should pass some sort of legislation to address the border crisis before the August recess.
In order to garner enough Republican votes for the measure, Republicans are considering cutting back both the size of the $1.5 billion spending package originally proposed by House appropriators, as well the policy recommendations proposed by a working group led by Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas).
Granger said members appeared to be coalescing around changes to a 2008 human trafficking law so that uniform rules could be applied to child migrants, as well as adding more immigration judges to help speed the processing of those children.
"I really feel very confident," Granger told reporters of a potential vote.
Republicans also discussed voting on a separate resolution that would challenge Obama’s administrative actions on immigration, particularly the 2012 action that deferred deportation for some children that came to the U.S. before 2007. Members also discussed bringing up the president’s own $3.7 billion request specifically to vote it down and underscore the lack of support among Republicans for that amount.
Another possibility would be a vote on a resolution arguing that Obama has not enforced the law and caused the child migrant surge.
With a number of ideas still floating around the core legislation, it remained an open question whether GOP leaders would be able to corral enough conservatives, skeptical of the entire effort, to pass a bill in the House. A large number of House Democrats have announced their opposition to policy changes Republicans say are central to their plan.
But Republicans emerged optimistic they at least had laid out some sort of path forward that would give them a vote on something before leaving town.
“I think the bill actually has a shot to pass … which is more than I can normally say,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).
“I think our conference is coming together behind a solution to this problem,” said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who takes over as Majority Whip at the end of the month. “The vast majority of our members want to solve this…in a targeted way.”
Some conservatives aren't sure they could do anything to prevent Obama from undoing their legislation to reverse the Deferred Action on Child Arrivals (DACA) program.
"We can't trust this president. He could go in and issue an executive order again the next week," said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas). "How do you hold the feet to his fire? I don't know how the legislation could do that."
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) questioned whether a symbolic House vote on the DACA program would help their cause.
"Do we really need a vote to say that DACA isn't the law?" Gohmert said. "The only thing it passed was the president's lips."
Other Republicans worry that the Senate would try to attach comprehensive immigration reform to a House-passed border package. But the predominant concern from many Republicans is the political attacks they would face from Democrats if they failed to act political on the issue and left Washington for five weeks.
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) said it would send a "terrible message" if the House left for the August recess without moving legislation addressing the influx of child migrants.
“There’s a big political risk if we leave without doing something,” said Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas). “The president is a master at trying to deflect his failures onto the Congress. I don’t know that this one would stick, but why put ourselves in that situation?”