Republicans weigh $1.5 billion for border surge, far less than Obama wants
WASHINGTON, July 23 (Reuters) - Leading Republicans said on Wednesday they believe an extra $1.5 billion is the most Congress should spend through December to address the surge of migrant children at the southern U.S. border, far below the $3.7 b...
WASHINGTON, July 23 (Reuters) - Leading Republicans said on Wednesday they believe an extra $1.5 billion is the most Congress should spend through December to address the surge of migrant children at the southern U.S. border, far below the $3.7 billion requested by President Barack Obama.
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said he and his fellow Republicans discussed paring down Democrat Obama's request "to about $1.5 billion". Boehner was quick to add, however, that no decisions had been made on whether to bring such a bill to the House floor for a vote.
With Congress preparing to start a five-week break next Friday and no compromise in sight, it was not clear whether Obama will get any of the emergency funding he asked for to address the influx of 57,000 unaccompanied children this year.
Signaling problems ahead, Boehner said, "Without trying to fix the (immigration) problem, I don't see how we actually are in a position to give the president any more money."
Boehner was referring to demands by congressional Republicans that changes to a 2008 human anti-trafficking law be included in the spending bill. Such changes would allow the Obama administration to more quickly deport the children, who are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
The children, often traveling without parents or relatives, are hoping to reunite with family members already in the United States. By year's end, the arrivals could total 90,000, according to government projections.
Later Wednesday, Boehner wrote to Obama noting that the president had publicly indicated he also favored changing the 2008 law but then appeared to have backed away by not asking for the change as part of his $3.7 billion border funding request.
"Frankly, it is difficult to see how we can make progress on this issue without strong, public support from the White House for much-needed reforms, including changes to the 2008 law," Boehner said in the letter, which was released to the media.
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said Wednesday the White House had told him any change in the 2008 law should be considered separately from the emergency funding request.
Many Democrats in Congress oppose rewriting the 2008 law in a way that would facilitate sending the children back, without thorough asylum hearings, to the drug- and gang-related violence they are trying to escape in Central America.
The $1.5 billion being weighed in the House is also far less than the $2.7 billion Senate Democrats said they will seek.
Unlike the Senate, House Republicans are talking about offsetting the cost of added border funds by reducing spending in other areas of the government.
Meanwhile, a House Republican working group issued its recommendations.
As expected, it included a call for changing the 2008 anti-trafficking law. It also recommended deploying the National Guard to help the U.S. Border Patrol care for the children, funding the hiring of extra judges to hear asylum claims and establishing repatriation centers in the countries they come from.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said on Tuesday he hoped Congress would act on the emergency funding before the August recess. "These agencies are going to run out of money in mid-August," Reid said.
Still, some conservatives oppose additional funding. Republican U.S. Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama said spending billions of dollars on the border problem was "financial insanity."