House Republicans are taking a second shot at passing a border funding package Friday after party leaders failed to whip enough support among conservatives and were forced to pull legislation Thursday. The new version of the bill will add $35 million to offer states that dispatch National Guard service members to the border, adding up to $694 million in emergency funding relief to cope with the flood of unaccompanied minors streaming into the United States. Unwilling to leave Washington without first passing a border package, lawmakers aim to vote on the revised legislation Friday along with a separate vote on legislation to undercut laws protecting young undocumented immigrants.
The new House Republican leadership team, facing its first real test yesterday, failed miserably. They backed a bill that ostensibly addresses the humanitarian crisis at the U.S./Mexico border, but the bill died before it even reached the floor. Rank-and-file Republican lawmakers had rejected their own party's bill.
But instead of leaving town for Congress' five-week break, GOP lawmakers met this morning to work something out, and by all appearances, Speaker John Boehner and his team effectively told right-wing members, "Tell us what you want and we'll say yes." The result is a new bill, set to pass this afternoon.
To appreciate what the House GOP has come up with, note that Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), two of the fiercest opponents of the bill that died yesterday, think this new proposal is awesome.[Update: King told Roll Call, "The changes brought into this are ones I've developed and advocated for over the past two years. It's like I ordered it off the menu."]The agreement conservative Republicans reached with very conservative Republicans can charitably be described as a bad joke. This legislation wouldn't address the humanitarian crisis in any meaningful way, and really doesn't even try.
The Washington Post's report conceded the legislation "would do little to immediately solve the crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border but would allow [Republican lawmakers] to go home and tell voters that they did what they could."
In other words, the post-policy House majority is putting on a little show this afternoon. Even marginally informed observers will recognize this as pointless theater, but GOP members won't care because the point of the exercise will be to create a talking point -- one that no fair-minded person will believe anyway.
Some of the details are still elusive, but reports suggest that the right was satisfied when Republican leaders agreed to advance provisions that not only support deportations of Dream Act kids, but also blocks current Dreamers who are already benefiting from the Obama administration's DACA policy from renewing their participation in the program.
As a practical matter, this makes the bill more of a far-right fantasy than an actual plan. The motivations behind it have nothing to do with governing. Indeed, the very idea is laughable under the circumstances -- it's not as if the Speaker's office has been in communication with Senate Democrats and the White House, looking for some common ground on a proposal that could become law.
Rather, Boehner, bruised and embarrassed, gave up. The goal this morning was to craft a new plan that makes far-right extremists happy. And that's precisely what they've done.
Of course, the charade would be easier to pull off it weren't quite so transparent. Republicans will spend the next five weeks saying, "See? We did our jobs!" it will be painfully obvious that their claims are as misleading as they are demonstrably ridiculous. For GOP lawmakers to have done their jobs, they would have had to agree to a serious proposal that related in some meaningful way to the task at hand.
That is clearly not what's happened.
As for the road ahead, Sahil Kapur reports, "The plan is to have two votes: the first one is on the supplemental and tougher border language to swiftly send home children coming from Central American countries. If that passes, there'll be a second vote on the bill to end the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and stop the president from granting legal status to anyone in the U.S. illegally."
If Republicans get on planes this evening feeling good about themselves and their accomplishments, they're not paying close enough attention. They've become the Cruz/Bachmann/King Party -- which is exactly the opposite of what party leaders had in mind at the start of this Congress.