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House and Senate fail to pass border bills

Efforts to gin up support from the base failed Thursday as House Republicans prepared to cut town without first passing a border funding bill.
Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) leaves after a press briefing on July 31, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) leaves after a press briefing on July 31, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

House Republicans failed to pass their own bill to address the border crisis Thursday as efforts to build support among conservative members collapsed. Unable to shore up enough votes, House Speaker John Boehner pulled the doomed legislation, which would have provided $659 million in emergency aid to the U.S. border. 

Shortly thereafter, the Senate voted to block an emergency funding measure of its own, 50-44, which would have allocated $2.7 billion for the border. 

House Republicans are expected to pick up the effort again Friday morning, just as lawmakers prepare to leave Capitol Hill for a five-week recess without passing any funding relief for the southwestern border. Emergency funds are set to run out by the end of August after a flood of unaccompanied minors -- some 57,000 have been apprehended at the border since October -- strained immigration resources and facilities beyond capacity. 

GOP leaders faced a groundswell of opposition to the border funding package ahead of the scheduled vote as far-right factions led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz complained that the funding request was too costly and needed to include provisions to undermine President Obama’s executive action on immigration.

After initially proposing a $1.5 billion plan, Boehner heeded calls to trim the funding package far below the president's $3.7 billion request to send relief to immigration courts and enforcement at the border. Late Wednesday night, House leaders agreed to include a separate vote on a companion bill to undercut White House efforts to expand a program that has offered more than 500,000 undocumented immigrants temporary work permits and relief from deportation, which the president implemented by executive action in 2012 in the wake of congressional inaction on comprehensive immigration reform.

Unable to win over tea party Republicans, GOP leaders are now testing a new tactic: Let President Obama deal with the problem. Just one day after voting to sue the president for allegedly overstepping his legal authority through executive action, House Republicans are now encouraging the White House to take unilateral action on the border crisis. 

“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," House GOP leaders said after the pulling the bill, in a statement issued by Reps. John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise and Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

Ahead of the scheduled vote, the White House lashed out at Republicans for working to dismantle any extensions to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which currently affects DREAMers brought to the United States before 2007.

“By failing to act on an immigration reform bill that requires that people who are here illegally pay taxes, undergo background checks and get on the right side of the law, the House is instead driving an approach that is about rounding up and deporting 11 million people, separating families and undermining DHS’ ability to secure the border,” the White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement Thursday.

Lawmakers have little time to pull together a border bill before they leave Washington, D.C. Administration officials have warned that money for border enforcement will likely run dry if Congress fails to greenlight more emergency funding before August.

The Senate's bill -- which also included measures to combat wildfires and aids Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense system -- cleared a procedural hurdle Wednesday with a 63-33 vote. Two vulnerable Democrats up for tight re-elections in November, Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu and North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan, voted against moving the bill forward.