House Speaker John Boehner got heated Thursday at a press conference when he was asked whether Congress will support President Obama’s request for $3.7 billion to address the recent flood of undocumented migrant kids at the United States’ southern border.
“Listen, this is a problem of the president’s own making. He’s been president for five and a half years. When is he going to take responsibility for something?” Boehner said after he was asked if Republicans would feel the heat for not acting quickly to stop the influx of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The question was prompted by South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s recent comments that Americans would blame the GOP if funding to aid undocumented migrant children failed. Conservatives have responded with hesitation to Obama’s request for emergency funds.
Boehner spent months demanding Obama secure the border and abandon executive actions to pass reform. Republicans have renounced the responsibility to fix what Boehner has said repeatedly is a broken immigration system by failing to pass reform in the House. But, now that reform is dead and the GOP has few plans of its own, Obama is asking them for money to secure the border.
Obama went after Republicans during a speech Thursday in Austin, Texas over what he described as congressional inaction.
“Rather than wage another political stunt that wastes time, wastes taxpayers’ money, I’ve got a better idea: Do something,” Obama said. “If you’re mad at me for helping people on my own, let’s team up. Let’s pass some bills. Let’s help America together.”
“You know, it is lonely, me just doing stuff. I’d love it if the Republicans did stuff too,” he added.
Arizona Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake stepped in to fill that void with an announcement Thursday afternoon that they plan to introduce legislation that would expedite the deportation of undocumented children by amending a 2008 trafficking law and increasing the number of immigration judges. The bill would also require mandatory detention or alternatives like ankle monitors to ensure immigrants appear in court, increase the number of certain refugee visas, and make foreign aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador conditional on their efforts to secure their borders.
If the GOP embraces the proposal, the McCain-Flake legislation could become a rallying point for Republicans looking for an alternative to Obama’s $3.7 billion request for aid. Boehner said earlier this week that he planned to collaborate with his fellow Republicans to look into the president’s plan. But he warned Thursday, “We’re not giving the president a blank check.”
More than 52,000 migrant children have been apprehended along the border since October, most of them fleeing violence and instability in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Obama came under fire this week from Republicans and some Democrats for not visiting the border during his trip to Texas, where he met with Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday to discuss the influx of migrant kids. Obama said in a televised speech that he would “do the right thing” to address the crisis at the border, but he emphasized that it is “unlikely” the immigrants will be able to remain in the United States.
Top U.S. officials, including Vice President Joe Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, have met with foreign leaders in recent weeks to stress the need for a joint effort in stopping the flow of migrants.
First lady Michelle Obama has also contributed to the White House effort, advocating that Washington continue to fight to overhaul the immigration system in a speech Thursday at the 85th Annual League of United Latin American Citizens National Convention and Exposition.
“Make no mistake about it,” she said, “we have to keep on fighting as hard as we can on immigration. And as my husband has said, he’s going to do whatever administrative action it takes to fix this broken system.”
Benjy Sarlin contributed reporting.