House Republican leaders on Thursday last week had to pull from the floor their bill to deal with the current crisis of child migration at the border. The Beltway media pounced instantly with a stale narrative about how this was embarrassment to the new House leadership team.
Then late Friday, the House actually passed a border bill. It won't become law as written, but it's still one bill more than the Democrat-controlled Senate – by then already out of town for the August recess – had approved in response to the deteriorating situation on the border.
|Harry Reid had already declared that the border was secure and no legislation was needed.|
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had already declared that the border was secure and no legislation was needed. He followed through on his stated indifference by blocking all amendments to a Senate border bill. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a strong advocate of comprehensive immigration reform, took to the floor and berated Reid for this, repeatedly shouting, “Shame on you!”
America does have a do-nothing Congress, but the lesson from last week is that the House of Representatives is a far more functional institution than Reid's Senate. The only problem with the House, for some, is that it is too democratic. Beltway insiders long for the days when Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Leader Tom DeLay, R-Tex., behaved like dictators, instructing members how they were going to vote and rewarding and punishing them based on their willingness to do as they were told.
But Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, gave up most of the tools of legislative dictatorship when Republicans retook the House in 2010 and banned earmarks. The new normal has caused Boehner a lot of personal headaches, but it has also made the House into a chamber where individual members enjoy more freedom to represent their constituents' views. That's why the House ultimately passed a bill on this serious issue and the Senate did not.
The House legislation funds the border patrol and the National Guard, allows border-crossing children to be returned to their families more quickly, and ensures a swift hearing for those who might have a valid asylum claim.
As part of the deal, the House passed a separate bill repealing a unilateral (and arguably illegal) Obama administration policy that helped cause the tragic rush of child immigrants. Human smugglers have successfully exploited false rumors in Latin America about what the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival policy means. It's been great for their business, but horrendous for children who suffer abuse, rape and death on the journey.
The House border bill will not become law as written. The Senate has to act, and the two bodies must agree on a compromise that President Obama will sign. But the Senate Democratic majority led by Reid has a fondness for silly stunts designed to appeal to millionaire environmentalist donors, and constitutional amendments repealing the freedom of speech. Doesn't leave much time for serious deliberation about things like the border crisis. A recent poll has Reid trailing Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval by 10 points. November 2014 and 2016 can’t get here too soon.