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House GOP passes immigration border crisis bills before recess as Senate fails

Speaker of the House John Boehner had a small victory with the passage of the immgration bills before the recess when the Senate could not pass their bill, Aug. 1, 2014
Speaker of the House John Boehner had a small victory with the passage of the immgration bills before the recess when the Senate could not pass their bill, Aug. 1, 2014
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Republicans in the House of Representatives passed with a vote of 223 to 189 H.R.5230, an emergency spending bill on Friday evening, Aug. 1, 2014 meant to deal with the child migrant border crisis. The House also passed H.R.5272, a bill ending the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program with a vote of 216 to 192, 11 Republicans voted against the bill with four Democrats voting in favor. The votes are largely symbolic as a victory for Speaker John Boehner, R-OH and the GOP House leadership team before the August recess. Both President Barack Obama and Democrat controlled Senate oppose the bills, and it has no chance of advancing further, the the Democratic controlled Senate will not pass it and President Barack Obama promised to veto it.

House Republicans were proud of passing the two bills and their handling of the immigration crisis. Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-VA told the press; "There is a crisis at our southern border and it is a crisis of the president's own making. Since the president isn't taking the serious action needed to secure the southern border, the House is doing so today." Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-MN, who advocated and negotiated the tougher immigration bill expressed how important the issue is; "It's dealing with the issue that the American people care about more than any other, and that is stopping the invasion of illegal foreign nationals into our country. And we got to yes."

The day before on Thursday, July 31, 2014 the Senate's $2.7 billion emergency spending bill failed to pass its legislative hurdle to advance to a full Senate vote by a vote of 55 to 44. After Speaker Boehner faced a rebellion from Tea Party members in the House, he decided to pull a vote on their bill since there was not enough votes to pass the measure. The Republican leadership delayed the start of the five-week August recess to revise the bill. After late night negotiations the House moved closer on Friday, Aug. 1, 2014 to passing a new revised version of the bill.

On Tuesday, July 8, 2014 President Obama asked that Congress pass an "emergency immigration supplemental spending bill" to deal with the "child migrant crisis" with the influx of over 57,000 children from Central American countries predominantly Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras crossing the border. Obama requested that the $4.3 billion bill will be divided with $3.7 billion going to the border crisis including $1.8 billion going Department of Health and Human Services to care for the migrant children and $1.6 billion to the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice to boost border patrol and speed up deportation proceedings, and it also includes $615 million to fund wildfire prevention in the Western states.

Since it is an emergency spending bill the White House asked that the funding not be offset, however, this has posed a problem to Republicans in the House and Senate who would not consider the bill if it is not paid for. The Senate bill authored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-MD at $2.7 billion was much less than President Obama had requested, however it did not include "spending offsets;" all non-emergency funding is required to provide funding to cover the costs. Obama and the Democrats viewed this bill as an emergency bill not needing funding. The Republicans wanted the bill paid for, leading to a stand-off with all 44 Republicans voting against the bill and all 55 Democrats voting for the bill, preventing it from advancing to a full vote. Senate Republicans also wanted the bill to include measures to make it "easier" to deport the illegal immigrant children that have caused the crisis.

The Senate ended up leaving for the August recess with out passing an emergency spending bill. Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, slammed the Senate for vacationning, but not dealing with the crisis at his state's border; "Congress and the president have a duty to address our border security issues without further delay. Congress should not go into recess until the job is completed." Earlier in July the Texas governor ordered "1000 National Guard troops" to secure the border.

The House of Representatives had their own bill, which cost far less at $659 million; it consisted according to ABC News of "$334 million for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)" including $35 million to the National Guard to enforce the borders; $40 million for repatriation to the main countries migrants came from and "$197 million for the Department of Health and Human Services" to temporarily take care of the migrant children.

Wednesday evening, July 30 Senator Ted Cruz, R-TX led a revolt of Tea Party members of the House of Representatives. The Tea Party senator had a meeting in his Senate office with the 13 most conservative members of the House about the bill not being a strong enough to "secure the border." In the hour and 40 minute meeting he encouraged them to not vote in favor of the bill unless it included a measure ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Cruz introduced in the Senate his own bill, which essentially ends the DACA program. Cruz wants the House to "stand up and lead tomorrow. And if they do, if the House stands up and leads, and eliminates President Obama's amnesty, then the burden will shift to the Senate." Without those 13 votes the immigration bills would not be able to pass the emergency spending bill.

Cruz upset the House leadership for interfering in the chamber's business, leading to mockings that he wanted to become the House's new speaker, taking over the position for Boehner, R-OH. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. commented to the Washington Post about Cruz ruining the bill's passage on Thursday; "The Obama White House should put Ted Cruz on the payroll. We have a chance to pass a good bill, not a perfect bill. Boehner is working hard to get to 218 votes and yet there is Ted Cruz, telling us to do nothing. If he wants to come over and run for speaker, that's fine, but otherwise he should stay over there in the Senate." House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-KY, who sponsored the House emergency spending bill told ABC News afterwards that he would like to see the House vote on it; "I would like to see us have a vote."

The Cruz led revolt, prompted the House leadership to delay their vote on the immigration, bill, which upset moderate Republicans who voiced their objection on the House floor Thursday afternoon. The Republican House leadership issued a statement about delaying the vote, Thursday afternoon; "This situation shows the intense concern within our conference -- and among the American people -- about the need to ensure the security of our borders and the president's refusal to faithfully execute our laws. There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries. For the past month, the House has been engaged in intensive efforts to pass legislation that would compel the president to do his job and ensure it can be done as quickly and compassionately as possible. Through an inclusive process, a border bill was built by listening to members and the American people that has the support not just of a majority of the majority in the House, but most of the House Republican Conference."

Republicans worked late into the night Thursday to revise their bill and also early Friday morning, Aug. 1 before reaching a compromise, toughening it up to ensure support from conservative Tea Party members. The new bill beefs up funding for the National Guard, adding $35 million, and raising the bill's total to $694 million, doubling the amount going to the National Guard. Rep. Tom Cole, R-OK described the GOP House leadership's dedication to getting the bill passed; "(The House Republican) Conference was essentially unanimous that it needs to stay. It did not want to go home. If we have to work longer through the weekend, I think there is a genuine desire to do that."

The GOP leadership also planned to add a vote on a "companion bill" sponsored by Marsha Blackburn, R-TN that ends the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and preventing Obama from expanding the 2012 program. The bill would affect immigrants that came illegally to the country as children prior to 2007, who were granted work permits and which has benefitted 500,000 illegal immigrants. The bill now includes more "tougher language" introduced by Reps. John Carter, R-TX, Robert Aderholt, R-AL and Jack Kingston, R-GA to appeal to Tea Party conservatives who balked at the original bill.

Two of the most influential representatives that had opposed the original bill; Reps. Steve King, R-IA and Bachmann seemed satisfied with the revisions. King commented; "We're in good shape. I'm a yes. The president cannot make up immigration law out of his own. He can't create work permits out of thin air. He's got to abide by the Constitution. It sends a message to the president to stop violating the constitution, stop ordering ICE to violate the law, and it says to the president, don't take the risk of trying to expand 5 million illegal people here and give them a legal status."

While Bachmann also expressed her approval of the revised border crisis bill after a GOP conference meeting Friday; "We put our concerns on the table. This is a grand new bill. It is a clean, comprehensive DACA bill, which means we are going to be sending a message to the Central American countries…you will be sent back to your country. We also had a conversation about making sure that we don't vote for the border security bill without voting for DACA" Bachmann also said for the emergency spending bill to pass; both bills have to pass; "They both have to pass and we have to have the votes for both of them. If we don't that would be a deal breaker for the conference. But we have the votes, we're quite sure. We've been assured that by the leadership."

Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-LA told Congressional Quarterly's Roll Call the two bills deal with the entire border crisis; "We're going to have a strong bill that shows how we can address this border crisis that the president refused to deal with. We're going to keep working until we get our job done. The Senate's going to leave without doing their work. The president refuses to do his work. But the House is going to stay, do our work and show that we can lead and solve the problem."

The White House thoroughly objected to the bills, with White House Press Secretary Josh Earnst releasing a statement; Earnst wrote that the House bill "is about rounding up and deporting 11 million people, separating families, and undermining (the Department of Homeland Security's) ability to secure the border." Continuing he stated the bill is meant "restrict a law enforcement tool that the Department of Homeland Security uses to focus resources on key enforcement priorities like public safety and border security, and provide temporary relief from deportation for people who are low priorities for removal."

No matter what, the House bill has no chance of even being voted on by the Senate. President Obama and the Democrats are dismissing the House Republican's bill. Democrats in the House took to the floor pressing the GOP leadership to put the Senate's immigration reform bill passed in June 2013 to a vote rather than further restrict immigration by increasing deportations as their new bill intend to do. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA stated after the vote; "Today could have been an opportunity for coming together. The Republicans have moved more to the right. Not to the correct, but to the right."

While President Obama in a speech on Friday, Aug. 1, 2014 commented on the bills insulting the House GOP and promising the bill's failure even if it passes the House. Obama mockingly stated; "House Republicans as we speak are trying to pass the most extreme and unworkable [immigration] bill. It won't pass the Senate and if it did, I would veto it. They know that." Obama continued saying; "They're not even trying to actually solve the problem; this is a partisan message bill on party lines that won't solve problems... It's just so they can check a box before leaving town." Obama is now considering another executive action to deal with the immigration and border crisis, threatening the GOP; "They're not even trying to solve the problem. I'm going to have to act alone, because we do not have enough resources."

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Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.