White House threatens to veto border bill; parties whip votes

White House threatens to veto border bill; parties whip votes

The White House on Wednesday threatened to veto the House Republican border bill as GOP leaders scrambled to get the votes to pass it. 

Less than 24 hours before Congress will leave Washington for a five-week recess, there was little to no hope that a bipartisan deal to address the border crisis would be reached. [READ WHIP LIST ON HOUSE GOP BORDER BILL.]

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Senate Democrats are struggling to rally enough support for their $2.7 billion measure, while House Republicans hoped to wrangle enough backing from their conservative wing to overcome staunch Democratic opposition to their $659 million short-term package.

The White House jumped into the congressional fray Wednesday, slamming the House package as grossly insufficient and full of policy changes that would undercut due process for endangered children and set arbitrary timelines for processing immigration cases.

“H.R. 5230 could make the situation worse, not better,” the administration said. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the bill “inhumane.”

Until Wednesday’s veto threat, the White House had largely stayed out of the legislative jockeying on Capitol Hill.

Earlier this month, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, “In terms of the legislative machinations of all this, we’re going to rely on Congress to do its business in the way they think is most appropriate.”

Neither chamber had aligned sufficient support for their respective proposals when the administration vowed to kill the House bill.

Sens. Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganDemocrats will win back the Senate majority in 2020, all thanks to President Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Dems shift strategy on impeachment vote Former North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan dies at 66 MORE (D-N.C.) and Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuCongress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ Lobbying world MORE (D-La.) on Wednesday voted against an early procedural motion for the bill — a clear signal that there will not be enough support to overcome an expected GOP filibuster of the package. To do so, all 55 senators who caucus with the Democrats and five Republicans would have to vote to overcome the filibuster. Both Hagan and Landrieu are GOP targets this fall.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinPolitical purity tests are for losers Former coal exec Don Blankenship launches third-party presidential bid Centrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda MORE (D-W.Va.) voted to advance the bill but said he would oppose it moving forward without “major changes.”

In the House, GOP leaders were still actively looking for support Wednesday evening, trying to overcome skepticism from some conservatives and broad Democratic opposition to the policy changes they paired with drastically limited spending.

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFormer Speaker Boehner's official portrait unveiled Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock From learning on his feet to policy director MORE (R-Ohio) on Wednesday said, “I think there is sufficient support in the House. We have a little more work to do.”

This vote is a huge test of BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFormer Speaker Boehner's official portrait unveiled Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock From learning on his feet to policy director MORE’s new leadership team in the wake of House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorMeet Trump's most trusted pollsters Embattled Juul seeks allies in Washington GOP faces tough battle to become 'party of health care' MORE’s (R-Va.) stunning primary loss last month. Passing this bill would be a big political victory for Boehner as well as his deputies, Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Steve Scalise (R-La.). If the legislation falls short, the White House and congressional Democrats will surely use the defeat over the August recess.

“We’re getting there, but we still have a ways to go,” said Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), one of the leadership team’s new deputy whips. “We remain confident. But we’ve got to remain confident and work.”

Some conservative lawmakers declined to say whether they would back the leadership proposal. Several oppose sending the president any new funds, arguing his immigration policies created the problem in the first place.

An informal tally by The Hill identified nine Republicans who said they would oppose, or are inclined to oppose, the package. Republicans can lose 17 votes within their own party if no Democrats support it.

Rep. John FlemingJohn Calvin FlemingThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems aim to end anti-Semitism controversy with vote today Former congressmen, RNC members appointed to Trump administration roles Overnight Energy: Watchdog opens investigation into Interior chief | Judge halts Pruitt truck pollution rule decision | Winners, losers in EPA, Interior spending bill amendments MORE (R-La.), who opposes the bill, said lawmakers had approached him and suggested tweaks to the package that could win his vote.

“They’re really working it hard. That tells me that they don’t have it yet,” he said.

Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), a Tea Party conservative who was part of last year’s failed bipartisan talks in search of an immigration reform deal, said he’s leaning toward supporting the measure.

But a sticking point for several on the right is the fact the spending package does nothing to address Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Many conservatives, including Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzLawmakers spar over surveillance flight treaty with Russia Senators voice support for Iran protesters but stop short of taking action Prisons chief: FBI investigating whether 'criminal enterprise' played role in Epstein death MORE (R-Texas), argue that 2012 executive action sowed the seeds for the influx of child migrants, and that the matter cannot be adequately addressed without dismantling it.

Cruz at press time huddled with House Republicans in his office including Reps. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTrump circuit court nominee in jeopardy amid GOP opposition Progressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising On The Money: US paid record .1B in tariffs in September | Dems ramp up oversight of 'opportunity zones' | Judge hints at letting House lawsuit over Trump tax returns proceed MORE (Tenn.), Todd Rokita (Ind.) and Randy NeugebauerRobert (Randy) Randolph NeugebauerCordray announces he's leaving consumer bureau, promotes aide to deputy director GOP eager for Trump shake-up at consumer bureau Lobbying World MORE (Texas). 

Michael Needham, CEO of the outside conservative group Heritage Action, wrote Wednesday that DACA “effectively rolled out the welcome mat” to migrants, and said the border situation cannot be addressed without tackling it.

While Needham’s group frequently urges Republicans to stymie leadership initiatives, Heritage Action had not announced a key vote on the measure as of Wednesday evening.

Republicans in the House have struggled this Congress to pass controversial bills without Democratic support. The big question is how many Democrats will defect on Thursday.

Democratic leaders are actively working to build opposition to the bill, as many in the party oppose policy changes paired with the measure.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) predicted Wednesday that “some” Democrats would cross the aisle to support the bill but said “we don’t think it’ll be a large number.”

Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas)  is the only Democrat who is a firm yes.

A number of conservative-leaning Democrats remain wildcards as the vote approaches. Reps. Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Nick RahallNick Joe RahallWe shouldn't allow politics to impede disaster relief Break the cycle of partisanship with infant, child health care programs Clinton mulls role in 2018 midterms MORE (W.Va.), Kurt Schrader (Ore.), John BarrowJohn Jenkins BarrowRepublican wins Georgia secretary of state runoff to replace Kemp The most important runoff election is one you probably never heard of Our democracy can’t afford to cut legal aid services from the budget MORE (Ga.), Jim MathesonJames (Jim) David MathesonTrump EPA eases standards for coal ash disposal Utah redistricting reform measure likely to qualify for ballot Trump's budget targets affordable, reliable power MORE (Utah), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Ron BarberRonald (Ron) Sylvester BarberKavanaugh nomination a make or break moment to repeal Citizens United Latina Leaders to Watch 2018 Principles and actions mean more than Jeff Flake’s words MORE (Ariz.) have declined to say how they’ll vote.

Blue Dog Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) said he’s also undecided “but leaning against.”

Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), another Blue Dog, said he’s “a toss-up,” but hinted he’d rather support an imperfect bill than leave town without passing something.

“We’ve got to do something, and we’ve got to do the best we can do given the situation,” Scott said. “There’s an urgency here.”