House Republican leaders abruptly changed their plan to deal with the crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border late Wednesday night, after they were not able to muster enough votes to pass the legislation before Congress leaves Friday for a five-week recess.
Conservatives in the House revolted against the Republican-led plan, which provides about $659 million in emergency spending for the border crisis through the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.
As a result, the House will vote Thursday on two pieces of legislation, the first being the border plan. If that legislation passes, the House would be required to vote on legislation that would bar President Barack Obama from delaying the deportation of young, undocumented immigrants.
The Republican dissent was led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the conservative freshman firebrand who has miffed House leadership before by meddling in the House's affairs (most notably, last year, ahead of the government shutdown).
Cruz met with a sizeable group of House conservatives in his Senate office Wednesday night, where they ate pizza and discussed the border crisis, according to sources. Some of the attendees, according to Roll Call, included Republican Reps. Steve King of Iowa, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Steve Stockman of Texas, and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.
The House GOP legislation, a companion bill to one Cruz has proposed in the Senate, would prevent Obama from expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Obama established the program unilaterally in 2012 to shield thousands of young undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. since childhood from deportation.
Cruz has said any border plan should include a provision to stop the DACA program, because he considers it to be a main contributor to the crisis. This year alone, tens of thousands of migrants from Central America — many of them unaccompanied children — have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border from Central American countries.
"The evidence shows that the amnesty President Obama announced in 2012 is driving record numbers of immigrants to enter our nation illegally," Cruz said in a statement Tuesday. " Because of President Obama’s amnesty, children are being abused and exploited by dangerous drug cartels and transnational gangs."
It is unclear what the fate of the House border plan bill would be in the Senate, though the White House has threatened to veto the bill. But the language changing the DACA program is a non-starter, said Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
"Speaker Cruz is in the House," Jentleson said in an email Wednesday night. " We will not deport kids who have been here all their lives as a ransom for aiding the border crisis."
It's also not clear whether the new plan will be enough to satisfy conservatives, since the House will vote separately on the two pieces of legislation. The House could theoretically pass the border plan and vote down the deferred-action legislation, and many conservatives want the two bills tied together. The new policy riders, meanwhile, have pushed nearly all potential Democratic support away.
What's almost certain is that no border bill will likely make it to Obama's desk before Congress goes to recess. The Democratic-led Senate is facing hurdles of its own, as it barely voted to move forward and open debate on a $2.7 billion plan for the border crisis.
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