House passes $694 million border bill

<> on June 5, 2014 in Washington, DC.

WASHINGTON — In a late-night vote after a bitterly partisan debate, the House of Representatives passed a $694 million border bill Friday, but the measure has no chance of becoming law.

The vote was almost entirely on party lines, 223-189, with just one Democrat, Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar, voting for it. Four Republicans opposed the legislation.

The bill proposes to give the Department of Homeland Security more than $400 million for additional border security and law enforcement measures. It would allocate more than $20 million to speed up the deportation process by accelerating the judicial process, and also would set aside millions for National Guard border efforts and temporary housing for unaccompanied minors, among other things.

The measure that passed Friday also included a change to a 2008 anti-trafficking law to make it easier to send home the unaccompanied children from Central American countries.

The Democratic-led Senate had already left Washington to start a five-week summer recess after it was unable to pass its own legislation to give President Barack Obama some of the money he’s requested to address the massive influx of migrants at the nation’s southwestern border.

At a news conference Friday, President Barack Obama dismissed the House GOP measure as “a message bill” and vowed to veto if it came across his desk.

The vote came one day after a chaotic scene on Capitol Hill when House Speaker John Boehner was forced to abruptly pull an earlier version of the bill because it didn’t have sufficient votes to pass. Some conservatives didn’t like the price tag of the legislation and others demanded tougher restrictions on a separate bill that would halt future deportations of some child immigrants who arrived years ago.

House GOP leaders had already agreed to hold a separate vote on that measure, modeled on a plan from conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, which would prevent Obama from continuing his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. Under DACA, the administration can defer deportations of children brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents.

But conservatives wanted to end that policy, fearing that the President would use his executive authority to expand deportation deferments.

After a late night of negotiations on Thursday, GOP leaders agreed to the demand.

The House passed that bill Friday, 216-192, after a heated and ugly floor debate. Democrats accused the GOP of being “anti-Hispanic” and “extreme” — a message the party will certainly repeat over and over before the midterm elections.

Brushing off accusations that both bills were just political theater, House Republicans worked all day to lock down the votes from their members. They believed passing legislation right before they left for the break would flip the narrative — instead of being the party that did nothing, they could claim they stayed and approved a plan while the Democrats who run the Senate left town without any action on the issue.

“The people’s House is here working and we’re not going to stop working until we pass legislation that actually addresses this crisis,” said Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana.

House Democrats said the Republicans would only make the situation worse.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, warned that the House Republicans’ legislation would cause the deportation of 600,000 “Dreamers” — people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as minors and received conditional permanent residency under the 2001 DREAM Act.

“Republicans want to kill DACA and kill it quietly on a Friday night,” Gutierrez said.

But Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, said the President’s move “to use his pen and cell phone to legislate” and allow children stay in the country violated the Constitution because it was up to Congress to pass new laws.

Republicans criticized Obama for sending mixed messages to Congress on modifying that law. The President and some in his administration indicated they could support a bill to expedite deportations of children coming from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, but then backed off after Congressional Democrats strongly opposed linking that with additional border money.

Without any agreement on additional resources to address the border crisis, Obama said Friday, “we’ve run out of money.”

Three weeks ago, Obama had asked Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency funds to help process the unaccompanied children at the border and boost border security. The Senate Democrats’ plan called for $2.7 billion, but it failed to advance.

The President said Friday he would reallocate money to ensure federal agencies providing housing or holding immigration hearings could continue to handle the increased activity along the border in Texas.

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