House GOP leaders gave Democrats a softball shot at turning their words against them to support more executive actions on immigration from President Obama amid disarray on the emergency border spending bill.
At one point Thursday it appeared as if House Republicans might be willing to leave for the August recess without passing their $659 million supplemental spending bill after a conservative GOP rebellion prevented them from attracting the 218 votes needed for passage.
Before regrouping and trying to push another version of the spending bill that includes tougher border security measures, the House GOP leadership team, led by Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, issued a joint statement.
“The situation shows the intense concern within our conference and among the American people — about the need to ensure the security of our borders and the president’s refusal to faithfully execute our laws,” they said.
The next sentence gave the Democrats an opening: “There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries.”
Republicans were in part referring to provisions in the 2008 child trafficking law that requires children crossing into the country from anywhere but Mexico to go through a judicial proceeding to determine whether they qualify for refugee status and can remain legally in the U.S. or should be returned to their home countries.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., an author of the 2008 law, has repeatedly said it contains flexibility to waive or speed up those judicial proceedings in a crisis situation, as the U.S. has faced on its southern border in Texas over the last few months.
Other Republicans suggested that Obama could shift some money in the Homeland Security Department to make addressing the border crisis a priority until Congress gets back in September to hash out their differences of the spending bill.
But Senate Democrats used the GOP’s statement to justify Obama’s 2012 executive action allowing illegal immigrants who came to the country as children to remain and obtain work permits and driver’s licenses. The president also is expected to take additional unilateral action after Labor Day to curb deportations and provide safe harbor for 4 to 8 million illegal immigrants.
“Sen. [Harry] Reid agrees with House Republican leaders’ statement that President Obama has the authority to take steps on immigration reform on his own,” said Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson.
“He’s glad Republicans have come around and hopes this means they’d drop their frivolous lawsuit against the president instead of continuing to waste the American people’s time and money,” he added.
House Republicans, in a party-line vote of 225-201, on Wednesday voted to authorize a lawsuit against Obama accusing him of abusing his executive power by changing how his health care bill was implemented.
Both sides' efforts to pass an emergency spending bill aimed at addressing the border crisis Thursday failed and while the Senate won't take up the issue again until September, the House decided to delay the start of the August recess while they regroup and determine how to proceed.