GOP plans $659M border bill

House Republicans plan to vote Thursday on $659 million in funding to assist authorities at the border, far less than the $3.7 billion requested by President Obama just weeks ago.

Members left a Tuesday conference meeting giving mixed views on whether the legislation will have the votes to win approval.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) predicted it would get significant support from the House Republican Conference; though he acknowledged leadership will have to whip the vote.

“I think there's sufficient support in the House to move this bill,” Boehner told reporters after the conference meeting. “We've got a little more work to do, though.”

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While several Republicans aired confidence the party could pass the package without Democratic support, many conservatives continued to gripe about sending any funds to the president on the matter.

“That is money America does not have,” said Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.).

In particular, conservative lawmakers are unhappy the proposal does not do anything to address the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which many believe is central to the increased flow of child migrants.

Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) and other Republicans have argued the program, which allows certain young people who illegally immigrated to the United States to stay in the country, has been a incentive drawing thousands of children from Central America to cross the border.

“There was no mention of DACA being a part of a resolution to this problem,” Brooks said.

Some are dismissing the pared-down plan as political protection ahead of a five-week recess.

“The package is not going to become law,” said Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). “It gives members cover to go home for August.”

The key question will be whether Republican dissatisfaction with some aspects of the package will be enough to prevent them from voting for it. GOP leaders can lose 17 Republicans on the package and still pass it if they were to get zero Democratic support.
 
“Whatever amount we do here, to some people it will never be enough,” said Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.), who was supportive of the package. “There’s definitely folks that still have issues with it, but I think we would have enough [votes].”
 
Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) said he was disappointed GOP leaders are not taking any action on DACA, but said it was not enough to drive away his vote.
 
But when asked if the plan had enough support to pass with just Republicans, he put the pressure on the other party.
 
“Let’s put it this way: if I were a Democrat, and particularly a Democrat in a border state, and I went home without doing anything about this crisis their own president created? I’d be a bit nervous about doing something like that,” he said.
 
But other members predicted the measure would pass with a majority of Republicans.
 
“I think it will pass with almost all the Republicans. Democrats don't want to go home and face their constituents not having dealt with this,” said Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas).
 
The package includes several major policy provisions recommended by the working group led by Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas). That includes making changes to a 2008 human trafficking law to make it easier to process Central American children and send them back to their home countries. Most Democrats oppose changing that law.
 
It also would send the National Guard to the border, increase judicial resources to process cases, and allow Border Patrol access to federally protected lands.
 
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said the package would send $659 million in resources to the border, and be fully offset by cuts elsewhere. The funding would cover government needs through Sept. 30, and be roughly split as two-thirds funding for border security measures, and one-third for humanitarian relief through the Department of Health and Human Services.
 
The slimmed-down package comes in well below President Obama’s $3.7 billion request, and also significantly below the $2.7 billion package Senate Democrats are trying to advance. It also places significantly more resources aside for border security; the White House sought the majority of the funds for humanitarian assistance.
 
Rogers also said the legislation, set to be released on Tuesday, would “repurpose” $40 million in aid meant for Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, three nations that have seen a significant exodus of children to the U.S.
 
The GOP package would require the countries to now use those funds to keep children home and repatriate those being returned. And if they do not act in “good faith” on that end, they would not get the funds.
 
Rogers also highlighted that the legislation would allow immigration courts around the country to video conference to the border, allowing them to process the backlog of cases there as well.
 
“That should really speed up the process,” he said.