While President Obama focuses on domestic spending, the vice president is turning his attention to our southern neighbors.
In a New York Times op-ed published late Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden explains why Obama intends to ask Congress to spend in 2015 "almost three times what we generally have provided to Central America."
"As we were reminded last summer when thousands of unaccompanied children showed up on our southwestern border," Biden begins, "the security and prosperity of Central America are inextricably linked with our own."
Specifically, Biden says that the "economies of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras remain bogged down as the rest of the Americas surge forward. Inadequate education, institutional corruption, rampant crime and a lack of investment are holding these countries back."
"Toward that end," Biden explains, "on Monday, President Obama will request from Congress $1 billion to help Central America's leaders make the difficult reforms and investments required to address the region's interlocking security, governance and economic challenges."
The request comes just months after an influx of unaccompanied minors overwhelmed federal resources at the U.S. border, opening the Obama administration up to conservative rallying cries for tighter border security and accusations that the president is at fault for attracting migrant kids with false hopes of being granted “amnesty.” Then, in December, the president laid out a series of planned executive actions to address the crisis at the border, giving way to even more right-wing backlash.
But none of that seems to have deterred the Obama administration from moving forward with its plan. "The cost of investing now in a secure and prosperous Central America is modest compared with the costs of letting violence and poverty fester," Biden says.
Of course, the GOP has a different agenda. At a closed-door meeting with House Republicans on Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner discussed the next potential steps toward suing the president over his executive order to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. "We are finalizing a plan to authorize litigation on this issue — one we believe gives us the best chance of success,” Boehner said, according to a source in the room.
Still, Biden expresses optimism that the spending request will be met with bipartisan support. "Mr. Obama has asked me to lead this new effort," Biden says, before imploring the GOP-led Congress "to work with us. Together, we can help Central America become an embodiment of the Western Hemisphere's remarkable rise — not an exception to it."
Additional reporting by Amanda Sakuma and Suzy Khimm