House drops border bill, tells president they are suing for acting alone to act alone

House Republican leaders expected to pass their version of a border bill Thursday, but a revolt within the caucus blew things up, again. What was most curious, perhaps, was Republicans' counsel to President Obama: act on your own.

By , Guest blogger

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    House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio walks to the House chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington Thursday. A scheduled vote on a border bill never took place.
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As I noted earlier today, the House’s version of a supplemental spending bill to deal with the border crisis was imperiled by opposition from tea party groups, led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz who has spent the last several days lobbying House Republicans to vote against the bill proposed by their own leadership. As the day began, though, it looked as tough the House would actually go forward with a vote, though, and debate on the bill actually proceeded to the point where the House would be ready to vote on the bill later today. In the end, though, the House pulled the bill from the floor, obviously because there were not sufficient votes to pass it:

WASHINGTON — Facing a rebellion among their most conservative ranks, House Republicans were forced on Thursday to scuttle an emergency spending measure to address the surge of young Central American migrants at the southern border, in a major embarrassment to the new leadership team.

House Republicans, who have long called for strengthening security at the nation’s southern border, are now forced to head home for the five-week August recess with nothing to show for their efforts — something many Republicans fear will be an enormous political liability.

The blow to Speaker John A. Boehner and his new team — including Representatives Kevin McCarthy of California, the new majority leader, and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the whip — ensures that no legislation to address what both Democrats and Republicans call an urgent humanitarian crisis will reach President Obama’s desk before the August break.

“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,” House Republican leaders said in a statement. “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.”

The leaders had hoped to push through a modest $659 million emergency spending measure, well short of the $2.7 billion that Senate Democrats had proposed and the $3.7 billion that President Obama had requested.

Mr. Boehner and his team had scrambled to hold together their already fragile coalition to support the border bill by promising members a vote on an additional measure designed to curb Mr. Obama’s executive authority to stop the deportation of certain undocumented immigrants, including those brought to the country as young children.

The leaders had hoped to push through a modest $659 million emergency spending measure, well short of the $2.7 billion that Senate Democrats had proposed and the $3.7 billion that President Obama had requested.

Mr. Boehner and his team had scrambled to hold together their already fragile coalition to support the border bill by promising members a vote on an additional measure designed to curb Mr. Obama’s executive authority to stop the deportation of certain undocumented immigrants, including those brought to the country as young children.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the House GOP Caucus embarrass the House Leadership like this. It happened several times in the runup to last year’s government shutdown, it happened when the House failed to pass a bill for emergency aid for hurricane Sandy, and it happened during the summer 2011 debt debacle. On each occasion, as in this case, the leadership bent over backward to give the most extreme wing of the GOP caucus what it wanted and it usually still wasn’t good enough. On some occasions, Speaker John Boehner was willing to buck his caucus and put a bill on the floor that he knew would only pass with Democratic support, but that doesn’t appear to be an option this time because the Democratic caucus in the House opposes the Republican bill both because the funding provided is a mere fraction of what the president is saying is necessary, and also less than the amount the Senate bill would authorize, and because it would eliminate some legal protections for the Central American migrants claiming asylum under the applicable law. So, either the House passes a bill that a majority of Republicans can support or they pass nothing and, now, it looks like they will pass nothing.

The tweets from Congressional reports on the scene this afternoon tell the story:

Recommended: So you think you know Congress? Take our quiz.

Perhaps the most ironic thing about all of this, though, is in the statement that House Leadership released when the bill was pulled:

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. We will continue to work on solutions to the border crisis and other challenges facing our country.

Let this sink in for a minute. The same House of Representative that just yesterday evening voted to sue the president of the United States, something no House in American history has ever done before, because he was acting on his own in areas where Congress refused to act is saying that the President can solve the border crisis on his own without Congress acting. I’m not sure if the correct word here is irony or chutzpah, but it’s certainly something. 

In any case, House Republicans are apparently meeting late this afternoon to try to see if they can pull some kind of bill together before everyone leaves town, but it’s not looking good. And if the bill that they pulled wasn’t going to have much of a shot of passing, it seems hard to see what they could propose that will have a chance at passage. 

Update: The House Leadership has announced that the House will be back in session tomorrow, presumably to try to hammer out some kind of border bill, starting with a GOP caucus conference tomorrow morning. It’s unclear if the Senate will still be in session at that point, though.

Doug Mataconis appears on the Outside the Beltway blog at http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/.

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