Not only is President Obama not going to get the $3.7 billion he wants to deal with a surge of migrant children on the southern border, he'll be lucky if he gets anything soon.
Unresolved tension over immigration reform and the usual partisan bickering over new spending have tied Capitol Hill in knots on this issue. It increasingly looks like lawmakers will be unable to resolve the disputes before they adjourn for the August recess.
Even if they do eventually approve spending, it will be far less than Obama requested. Democratic senators have crafted a $2.7 billion plan, while House Republicans are mulling a bill that would offer just $1.5 billion.
In recent years, the two parties have barely seen eye-to-eye on spending bills, but this fight is complicated by the unresolved disagreement over comprehensive immigration reform, which passed the Senate more than a year ago but has languished in the House.
Many House conservatives think Obama has shown poor leadership when it comes to securing the border and is not doing enough to stop the recent surge and send migrants back home. Others think Obama is to blame for the influx of migrants because of his 2012 decision to defer deportation for undocumented immigrants brought here as children, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
Both arguments have left Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, struggling to find support for a spending bill on the current crisis. To win over conservatives, he's likely to include a provision to speed up deportations of Central American migrants which would make it even harder to win votes from House Democrats on the bill.
“I don’t know how we actually are in a position to give the president any more money,” Boehner said.
In a letter to Obama sent Wednesday, Boehner demanded that the president publicly declare his support for changing a 2008 law that gave children more protection from being deported immediately. Current law requires children from countries other than Mexico and Canada to receive court hearings, which are often delayed and as a result frequently lead to fewer deportations. In the 2014 fiscal year, 61,000 unaccompanied children have migrated across the Texas border, according to administration officials.
Obama initially said he wanted a change in the law to hasten deportations, but then backed down under pressure from immigration advocacy groups, which have also pushed congressional Democrats to oppose the change.
The partisan disagreement over the deportation provision now threatens the measure as much as the overall cost. The House bill is likely to include a change to the 2008 law. The Senate bill, unveiled this week by Democrats, leaves out the change.
Congress will adjourn at the end of next week until September, which leaves lawmakers just a handful of days to find a compromise.
As of now, they don’t appear anywhere close to a deal.
“If you are focusing on the House,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said this week, “Things are going very bad over there because the Republicans can't agree what they want. The Democrats aren't going to support some of their crazy ideas, and the Republicans can't agree which crazy idea they want to put forward.”
House Republicans were expected to meet Friday to discuss whether to endorse a border crisis plan formulated by a GOP working group.
The plan recommends sending National Guard troops to the border and changing the 2008 law to accelerate deportations.
House appropriators are expected to unveil a border spending plan next week. In addition to the money needed to address the border crisis, House lawmakers are debating whether to include $615 million to combat U.S. wildfires and $225 million for Israel's Iron Dome, which has helped deflect thousands of missiles fired from Gaza in recent fighting.
Earlier this month, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., sent Obama a letter signed by 33 Republicans calling on him to stop delaying deportations using Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
“The DACA program must be immediately ended to send a clear signal to all individuals that our immigration laws will be enforced,” Issa wrote.