House GOP Whiffs on Border Bill, Delays Summer Vacation

Speaker Boehner can't pass a bill addressing the border crisis in an embarrassing defeat for his new leadership team.

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House Republicans may be heading into a five-week summer break with a big swing-and-a-miss. Party leaders abruptly pulled a $659 million spending bill addressing the child migrant crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border after they could not find enough votes to pass it.

The move means Congress likely will leave Washington without passing any legislation on a situation that has outraged lawmakers in both parties.

After scrapping the vote, Republican leaders huddled with their members for more than an hour and told them to stay in Washington at least until Friday, delaying their annual August recess. The party plans another meeting at 9 a.m., and a House leadership aide told The Wire that members were discussing "possible tweaks to the language of the bill."

The House Rules Committee met late Thursday afternoon to pass a resolution allowing the House to consider a border bill anytime through Sept. 5, raising the possibility that Republican leaders would call members back from their recess or delay it indefinitely.

"It's good to measure twice and saw once," the committee's chairman, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), said in explaining the lengthy window. He said the leadership wanted to give itself as much flexibility as possible. "We’re going through a process right now, and we’re going to see if we can get there."

Democrats who opposed the proposal unanimously urged Republicans to negotiate with them instead of with their conservative wing. "You've been humiliated enough already," Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) told Sessions in the hearing.

The failure to pass a bill is an embarrassing defeat for the new House majority leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and the new whip, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who won't formally take over until midnight, but had assumed responsibility for pushing the border bill over the top.

For Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the lack of votes is an all-too-familiar tale.

In a joint statement, Boehner and his new lieutenants insisted the bill they pulled from the floor had "the support not just of a majority of the majority in the House, but most of the House Republican conference." Unfortunately for them, a "majority of a majority" and "most" of their party doesn't cut it.

Here's the full statement:

“This 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.  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.  For the past month, the House has been engaged in intensive efforts to pass legislation that would compel the president to do his job and ensure it can be done as quickly and compassionately as possible.  Through an inclusive process, a border bill was built by listening to members and the American people that has the support not just of a majority of the majority in the House, but most of the House Republican Conference.  We will continue to work on solutions to the border crisis and other challenges facing our country.”

After the debacle, members took to Twitter to react.

A conservative criticizes.

And a Democrat mocks.

The emergency supplemental spending bill was unlikely to become law even if it had passed the House because it differs so much from a considerably broader Senate bill. Both chambers were hoping to pass their proposals this week mainly so lawmakers could have something to tout in their districts over the long August recess.

Boehner and the leadership had already revised the bill multiple times to respond to conservative criticism. Late Wednesday Republicans agreed to schedule a separate vote on legislation that would reverse President Obama's 2012 executive order that protected so-called DREAMers from deportation. But that wasn't enough for some conservatives, who huddled on Wednesday with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), an opponent of the House bill.

Another ardent immigration foe, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), also rallied Southern lawmakers against the House GOP plan.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.