Three weeks ago, President Obama presented a pretty credible solution to the humanitarian crisis at the U.S./Mexico border. The White House requested $3.7 billion in emergency funding that would build detention centers, add immigration judges, and beef up border security, all while expediting deportations to discourage an additional influx.
A week later, asked if his chamber would approve Obama’s plan, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters, “I would certainly hope so,” though he cautioned against optimism.
My Grand Unified Theory of Boehner has long held that the Speaker’s political instincts are fairly sound, but he invariably has to take a less reasonable course because his radicalized caucus will tolerate nothing else. In the case of the border crisis, Boehner wanted to approve Obama’s proposed solution, but House Republicans ruled out the possibility, and with two days remaining before Congress takes a five-week break, they finally came up with a counter-offer.
Republicans hope to pass $659 million in supplemental spending for the border crisis before leaving for the August recess, Speaker John A. Boehner said after a GOP conference meeting Tuesday.The Ohio Republican said the House will “attempt to move this bill” on Thursday and that he anticipated the measure would have “sufficient support,” but that there was still “a little more work to do to” to shore up the votes.
This is not a bill anyone should take pride in. After complaining literally for months about this crisis, the fact that this proposal is the best the House GOP could come up with is pretty powerful evidence to bolster the post-policy thesis.
To address the crisis, the White House wants to spend nearly $4 billion, while Senate Democrats are writing a related package that would spend nearly $3 billion. House Republicans, meanwhile, want to spend $659 million – about a fifth of the original total eyed by the Obama administration – two-thirds of which would go to border security.
Apparently, no one told the GOP lawmakers that the current crisis doesn’t really have anything to do with border security. That, or lawmakers were told, but they didn’t care.
Making matters just a little more absurd, the House bill will run through Sept. 30. In other words, it’s a bill to tackle the problem for the next two months, at which point Congress would have to start over.
Why can’t the House GOP pass a real legislative response to the crisis they claim to take seriously? It gets back to something we talked about last week.
There is a group of far-right lawmakers in the House who don’t want to approve anything, in part because they don’t want to address the problem and in part because if the lower chamber does pass a bill, it might lead to a compromise with the Senate,
And House Republicans really don’t like compromises.
It led Boehner to pursue a bizarre strategy, in which he demanded that the White House urge House Democrats to support a Republican bill, since the Speaker couldn’t round up enough GOP support on his own. Dems, not surprisingly, balked.
Which in turn led Republicans to create an even worse proposal, intended to please far-right members, who wouldn’t support anything else.
So what happens now? The House will try to pass this weak bill before leaving town. As best as I can tell, there are no reliable headcounts yet, and it remains a distinct possibility that the GOP-led chamber will defeat the GOP-written bill.
If, however, the House manages to pass its measure, it would need support from the Senate and White House, which would have to decide fairly quickly whether the bill is better or worse than nothing. In theory, the Senate would approve its alternative and the two chambers would work on a possible compromise, but with lawmakers ready to leave town in a couple of days for a month off, there simply isn’t time.