For several weeks, congressional Republicans learned about the influx of unaccompanied migrant children from Central America, and as the humanitarian crisis worsened, GOP lawmakers demanded action from the White House. President Obama took the calls seriously, and on July 7, he unveiled a credible emergency plan.
There was reason for optimism. After all, within hours of the plan’s release, House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) initially suggested the president’s appeal would be approved. Better yet, there was plenty of time – the House wouldn’t leave for its summer break until the end of the month, and July is literally the only month in all of 2014 in which lawmakers are scheduled to work four weeks in a row.
But as it happens, the problem has nothing to do with time and everything to do with governing in the Republican-led House.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) raised doubts Thursday that Congress will be able to fulfill President Obama’s funding request to address the influx of illegal migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border before lawmakers leave Washington for their summer recess in two weeks. […]Asked about the prospect of approving Obama’s $3.7 billion request before a five-week break begins Aug. 1, Boehner said, “I would certainly hope so, but I don’t have as much optimism as I would like to have.”
I’m reminded of something Kevin Drum recently said: “Well, of course it won’t happen. The crisis along the border is tailor made for Republicans. It makes their base hopping mad, it juices their campaign fundraising, and anytime the government is unable to address a problem it makes Obama look bad. Why on earth would Republicans want to do anything to change any of this? As long as Obama is president, chaos is good for Republicans. After all, most voters don’t really know who’s at fault when things go wrong, they just know there’s a crisis and Obama doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it.”
I was skeptical when Kevin wrote this, but his assessment is looking quite prescient now.
Keep in mind, this isn’t a situation in which the Republican-led House wants one solution, the Democratic-led Senate wants another, and a compromise is elusive. Rather, we’re looking at a dynamic in which the GOP House majority simply can’t pass anything – many House Republicans are reluctant to spend any money at all on the problem, putting pressure on Boehner to find Democratic votes to pass a bill. But the more the Speaker looks for a package that can pick up Democratic support, the more GOP members balk.
Boehner appointed a House GOP border surge working group to craft some proposals, and even they don’t agree on a plan.
So there is no bill and the Speaker’s office doesn’t seem to think there will be a bill. Once again, met with a real challenge in need of a responsible remedy from lawmakers, Republicans aren’t prepared.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), meanwhile, continues to target Dream Act kids for no particular reason, which had the predictable effect of uniting Democrats who are otherwise squabbling behind the scenes.
For many on the right, the Republicans’ reluctance to govern may not matter. As Kevin noted, voters probably won’t understand the procedural details anyway – there’s a mess, the White House isn’t cleaning it up, so the president will probably get some blame whether it makes sense or not.
That said, come Aug. 1, the White House will have a pretty straightforward talking point for anyone who cares about the political reality: Obama came up with a good plan; Republicans did nothing; and then Congress left town for a month.