The House today published their bill on supplemental funding for the border crisis, setting up a Thursday vote. The total package is $659 million, less than half the original $1.5 billion proposal, and several orbital radii from the President’s $3.7 billion request. The funding runs through the end of the current fiscal year, and the bill still included the controversial language changes in the 2008 Wilberforce law. These changes would permit the rapid repatriation of children from Central America, similar to those from Mexico and Canada, and are widely opposed by Democrats. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said Republican leadership had not approached him for votes on the measure, but that he didn’t “see myself trying to get votes for a language change whose ramifications nobody knows at this time.” It may be at least a few D votes would be needed– probably easier to find from border-state Dems– to put the measure over as there are some Republicans who are still opposed, despite the major cuts made already. Rep’s. Steve King (R-IA) and Mo Brooks (R-MO) are definite no’s; “that’s money America doesn’t have,” Brooks added. They may be serious, but if so they’re wrong; the money in the House bill is offset.
The bulk of the money, about 2/3rds, goes to DHS for border security and Justice for more immigration judges. About a third goes to HHS to care for the kids in US custody. Roughly $40 million is for the three countries– Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala– where the kids come from for resettlement efforts, with a proviso to cut the cash off if they get to wasting it. The funding boosts the number of containment beds for illegals in US custody and doubles the funding for the Texas National Guard’s relief efforts of DHS on the border (I talked to one of those dudes today, he said he’d spent 9 weeks on the border without a full day off, hadn’t seen his kids in over two months, before he could get relief enough to come home to Houston for a visit. Memo to America: we are stretching the Border Patrol very thin. Very.) Some portion of Justice’s funds will be to install videoconferencing equipment in courtrooms around the country, in the hopes of “borrowing” enough judges to work through the backlog of cases. The measure also includes a “Sense of the Congress” resolution the children shouldn’t be held in military facilities– the (non)Sense of the Congress does not articulate whereinhell else they might go– permits Border Patrol agents access to federal lands– another controversial provision, but don’t ask me why– and prohibits persons with serious, drug-related convictions from applying for asylum.
There are large discrepancies between the House and the Senate bills; the latter of which I have been calling the Mikulski bill and which is widely expected to go down in flames before a procedural vote tomorrow. As an example the Mikulski bill spends $123.4 million on Justice alone, $63 mil for judges, plus another $50 mil to pay lawyers to represent the kids, plus do the videoconferencing equipment. The House version is $22 million total, $12.9 mil for judges and $9.1 mil for the tech upgrades, with zero dollars for immigration lawyers. In fact, the House bill includes the language:
“…the alien shall be given the privilege of being represented, at no expense to the Government, by counsel of the alien’s choosing who is authorized to practice in such proceedings.”
Democrats are going to love that all to pieces, you betcha. They’ll probably hate it worse than changing the 2008 language. They are pretty desperate to keep those kids here in the care of strangers, rather than send them home to their parents. Go figure. The Mikulsky bill does not change the 2008 law, and also includes about a billion over the $2.7 billion for the border for Israel to replenish their Iron Dome system, and to fight Western Wildfires, the latter likely in a (probably futile) attempt to attract Republican votes. As the smart money is now on the Mikulsky bill failing, the Iron Dome money, and maybe the wildfires, will probably be given a stand-alone vote as it is very popular.
The ever-entertaining but usually non-functional Harry Reid, staring defeat in the face on Mikulsky and being unlikely to pass anything not changing the 2008 law, which he really does not want to do, today threatened to take the House bill and add the Senate’s Gang of Eight immigration reform to it as an amendment before sending it back. Speaker Boehner immediately thundered out a response basically saying “no deal” and reiterating his determination the House will not take up Comprehensive in this Congress. Harry knew that, of course. It’s not easy to get in the head of somebody whose sanity you question, but my best guess on that is partly he’s trying to queer the House’s pitch on passing the bill– there is a lot of trepidation in the House about getting jammed with Gang of Eight– to make his House look better for not getting a bill and to protect the 2008 law language; and partly because he’s Harry Reid, a mean, nasty, rotten dirty old man who enjoys micturating in other people’s beer so everybody gets to be as miserable as he is.
Finally, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) publicly objects to the House bill as it includes no language to force the President to rescind DACA in order to get the money. Ted had some good quotes, and he’s certainly heading in the right direction– you guys know I’m a Texan, right?– but it’ll be no soap on this one. Ted’s just playing to the cameras and keeping the matter in the media’s consciousness. Nice try, Ted, but that dog won’t hunt.
So, bottom line, my take on all this is pretty simple: Harry will not get a bill before the scheduled recess, and Boehner will. Once the House has voted, Boehner will probably send his troops home for the recess. That will leave Harry in the position of taking up the House bill on their last day, and 1) passing it (don’t bet on that); 2) amending it (maybe, but if they add Gang of Eight the House will ignore them and not go to conference, so it won’t go anywhere or do them any good); 3) tabling it and going home on recess with a live bill in his inbox having done nothing about the crisis (don’t bet on that, either); or 4) doing something with an amendment not as outrageous as Gang of Eight to try to tease the House back into session for a conference. The last is their best shot, and that’s what I think they’ll do. Perhaps they will want to extend the time period for the bill through FY15. Maybe they’ll try to limit the damage of the 2008 language changes. Could be they’ll try to shift the House offsets for the funding. Anything, really, so Harry doesn’t have to appear the bumbling incompetent he is and they can say they’re “working on it.”