A bill to deal with the immigration surge at the border appears headed for procedural defeat in the Senate as lawmakers trade blame over their inaction on the crisis.
Days ahead of Congress’ five-week summer recess, Senate Democrats’ $3.5 billion emergency spending bill designed to help deal with tens of thousands of young migrants crossing the border illegally has yet to draw the necessary support to move forward. A vote in the Senate was expected Wednesday.
The inclusion of hundreds of millions of dollars to fight Western wildfires and provide aid for Israel’s defense hasn’t been enough to win over Republicans, who demand legal changes rejected by Democrats to return the young migrants more quickly to Central America.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said it was Republicans’ fault that the Senate looked set to adjourn for August without addressing what both parties have called a humanitarian crisis. Republicans “oppose everything the president wanted. Here is an example of that,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., disputed that, saying, “The problem is the Democratic Senate.”
With polls showing the public paying close attention to the immigration crisis, House Republicans were hoping they could act on their own solution, a slimmed-down, $615 million measure that leaves out the money for wildfires and Israel but includes the contentious policy changes rejected by Senate Democrats. These include dispatching the National Guard to the border and changing the law to permit unaccompanied migrant youths to be returned more quickly to Central America without deportation hearings that are now required.
But there was no guarantee House Speaker John Boehner would be able to count on enough support to pass the bill as he aimed for a vote Thursday.
Many conservatives remained skeptical, and Reid fomented those concerns by threatening to use the House bill as a vehicle to attach the Senate’s comprehensive immigration overhaul bill, which the House has rejected.
Boehner responded angrily, accusing Reid of “making a deceitful and cynical attempt to derail the House’s commonsense solution.”
“So let me be as clear as I can be with Sen. Reid: The House of Representatives will not take up the Senate immigration reform bill or accept it back from the Senate in any fashion,” Boehner said in a statement.
More than 57,000 unaccompanied minors have arrived since October, mostly from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Many are fleeing vicious gangs and are trying to reunite with family members, but they also are drawn by rumors that once here, they would be allowed to stay.
The Homeland Security Department says overwhelmed border agencies will be running out of money in coming months, and President Barack Obama asked Congress to agree to provide $3.7 billion.
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