Congress is scheduled to begin its August recess next week. In most years, August is a time when Americans can breathe easy as Washington politicians suspend their usual routines for a few weeks. Not this year, thanks to an urgent humanitarian crisis of child migration on America's southern border.
The situation is dire enough to demand immediate congressional input. Last week, Fox News' Greta Van Susteren asked a senior House Republican, former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., why Congress shouldn't stick around for the month in something resembling an "Occupy Washington" protest.
|If senators leave while the House works to solve the problem, vulnerable Democrats will face uncomfortable questions about it back home.|
“I love protests,” Van Susteren said. “Why don't all of your members in the House, Democrats and Republicans, stay in Washington next week and insist that it be resolved … Make a statement to the American people that you actually give a damn?” Van Susteren asked how, with 30 House members and 14 senators explicitly calling the border situation a crisis, could Congress leave town and start campaigning after making only a half-hearted attempt to solve the problem.
Ros-Lehtinen was hesitant to agree to this, and the House is indeed unlikely to forgo its customary summer break. For one thing, the August recess in election years marks the beginning of campaign season. Even if House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, were to sacrifice some or all of this time for his caucus, nobody would expect Senate Democrats to follow suit.
Moreover, given that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has purposely allowed dozens of significant key House-passed measures - many of them approved with bipartisan support -- die in his chamber without so much as a hearing, Ros-Lehtinen argued that such a gesture would probably be futile. “We just can't make Harry Reid do it,” she said. This is true - but it's also not the last word.
Reid, who announced on July 15 that the U.S. border with Mexico “is secure,” has flatly rejected a bipartisan reform bill promoted by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas - two members who represent the region at the center of the current crisis. Reid has also refused to put forth his own plan and even suggested that the situation is not urgent enough to merit reforms. Instead, he wants Congress to put a few more billion dollars into a dysfunctional immigration enforcement system and then go home for the recess.
And this is precisely why an “Occupy Washington” protest could be so effective. The continuing border problem is serious enough that no member of the House or Senate from either party can hit the campaign trail without suffering a backlash for inaction. If senators leave while the House works to solve the problem, vulnerable Democrats will face uncomfortable questions about it back home.
To blunt the criticism, they might even find it in their interest to buck their leadership and back the needed reforms. Reid is not taking the crisis at the border seriously. Instead of imitating Reid's indifference, House Republicans should make sure his caucus pays for it.