GOP pledges border vote 'today'
By Mike Lillis,Cristina Marcos and Peter Schroeder - 08/01/14 10:26 AM EDT
House GOP leaders are expected to bring a new border package to the floor on Friday that even some of the staunchest opponents of immigration reform said they would support.
Conservative firebrand Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said they would vote yes on the revised funding package to address the child migrant surge, as well as a separate bill to limit the Deferred Action on Child Arrivals (DACA) program that defers deportations of certain undocumented people who came to the United States as children.
"I expect it to pass later on today. I really do," King told reporters after a morning House GOP conference meeting.
Timing remains fluid on votes Friday, which was supposed to be the first day of the five-week August recess.
In any case, approval of a House package would be going nowhere fast. The Senate has adjourned for the recess after failing to approve its own $2.7 billion border bill.
While several conservatives had positive things to say about the new effort, it is clear GOP leaders are still working to win over their coverence.
During a midday vote on Friday to set up a rule allowing the House to consider the border bill, Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), in his first official day on the job, was seen talking with several members of his whip team, and those known to be on the fence or opposed to the border bill.
At one point, Scalise walked with Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.), a possible “no” vote, over to Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), a vocal backer of the new plan.
Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), Scalise’s chief deputy, was also seen moving from member to member across the chamber, at one point holding an extensive conversation with Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), another holdout.
Republicans are trying to win over members by including more funds for security and strengthening language intended to prevent President Obama from expanding the DACA program blamed by many Repubicans for the current influx of unaccompanied children at the border.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said the new funding package would provide $694 million for the border. Tat includes an extra $35 million that would go toward deploying National Guard troops to the border.
Lawmakers also said the rejiggered proposal would include tougher language that makes it easier to deport children from Central American countries.
Under the original Thursday plan, members would have had the opportunity to vote on a bill preventing further expansion of the DACA program contingent upon passage of the funding bill. The DACA program provides two-year work visas to qualified illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children before 2007.
The revised DACA bill would prohibit renewals of work permits or issuance of any new permits, according to Bachmann. It would also wind down the program. Legislative text of the two amended bills has not been released yet.A few Republicans who on Thursday were opposing the House GOP's package on Friday signaled they might support the new one.
For example, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) is leaning yes. He said he agrees with the framework presented by GOP leaders, but wants to read the bill language to make sure it does what they says it does.
"I'm anal enough, I really want to read the bill," Gohmert said.
He said he agreed with the principles laid out in the GOP's previous package, but that those principles "had loopholes you could drive trucks through."
Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.), another previous skeptic, sounded on board with the new plan as well.
“I think you’re going to see a strong, positive vote for this bill,” Fleischmann said.
But Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), the fourth-ranking House Republican, was careful not to predict a victory so soon after Thursday's debacle, when leadership pulled legislation from a scheduled vote.
"We're still working on it," she said of the whipping operation.
Bachmann said that leadership met Thursday evening with the approximately 20 House Republicans who refused to support the border package proposed by leaders earlier this week. Republicans need almost all of their conference to back the bill given nearly united Democratic opposition.
"We were able to come to a point of 218 yes votes on what arguably is the most monumental vote that we will take in this entire term," Bachmann said. "And it's dealing with the issue that the American people care about more than any other, and that is stopping the invasion of illegal foreign nationals into our country."
A House vote Friday would violate the GOP's self-imposed rule that bills must be publicly available for at least three calendar days before a vote. Consequently, some conservatives did not want to commit to supporting the bill yet.
"Words mean something," said Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.).
While several key conservatives broke towards the bill after Friday’s meeting, there was a lingering discontent among a few.
Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), a holdout from the beginning, said he was unhappy that the plan was to vote on the funding bill first, followed up by the bill pulling back on DACA. He said he didn’t think that enough Republicans could back the DACA bill if the funding had already cleared.
“I can’t go back to my district and say that I voted to appropriate money for the president without fixing the underlying problem first,” he said. “A lot of questions will be asked about that in the next hour or so, and I think some of the ‘yeses’ may be a little soft … when they understand the ramifications.”
Later, Fleming said he would oppose the bill unless the DACA language was either combined with the funding or was voted upon first.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said that he had already missed the start of a family vacation, but was willing to stay weeks if it meant getting a solution.
“When you’ve got a Steve King and a Charlie Dent [R-Pa.] agreeing on a bill in our conference, that’s impressive,” Meadows said.
And Republicans close to the border crisis were pretty pleased a vote seemed to be on the way.
"I'm a happy camper," said Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas).
This story was updated at 4:08 p.m.