By Mike Lillis - 07/31/14 10:06 AM EDT
A bipartisan group of lawmakers representing both the House and Senate are set to launch the long August recess with a trip to the southern border.
Spearheaded by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the visit is intended to give the lawmakers an intimate look at the troubles facing border authorities as they try to manage the flood of migrants who have crossed into Texas's Rio Grande Valley in recent months.
Roughly 60,000 of those arriving in the U.S. since October are Central American children unaccompanied by an adult, leaving officials scrambling to provide the healthcare, housing and legal services afforded those kids under current law.
The lawmakers are scheduled to spend the two-day trip, which begins Thursday, touring the U.S. Border Patrol’s McAllen Station and Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, where tens of thousands of those children are being housed.
The other lawmakers scheduled to join the trip are Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Angus King (I-Maine), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), and Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Marc Veasey (D-Texas).
The lawmakers will likely bring a bleak message about any congressional response.
As of Thursday morning, House Republican leaders were scrambling to rally GOP support for a $659 million border package. The measure was on life support Wednesday night after conservatives threatened to sink it for lacking a provision reining in Obama's 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
In response, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has allowed a separate vote on a bill preventing an expansion of DACA, but it remains unclear if that strategy will appease enough conservatives to pass the underlying border package, which the White House has threatened to veto in any event.
Across the aisle, Senate Democratic leaders are also struggling to win support for their $2.7 billion border package. The bill hopped a procedural hurdle with a 63 to 33 vote on Wednesday, but many of the 11 Republicans voting to advance the proposal have vowed to oppose final passage. Without that GOP support, the Democrats are unlikely to get the 60 votes needed to defeat a Republican filibuster.
Even if both chambers were to pass their versions of a border response, the sharp divide in spending levels and policy provisions all but guarantees Congress will leave Washington Thursday for its five-week vacation having done nothing to address a border situation both sides agree is a crisis.
How Obama responds to the likely congressional impasse remains unclear. The president has asked for $3.7 billion in emergency funding, including $1.8 billion to provide "appropriate care" for the children and $1.1 billion to beef up security at the border. That proposal went nowhere in Congress.
Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson warned lawmakers this month that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency will run out of money in mid-August, while the Customs and Border Patrol branch will exhaust its funds in mid-September.