House Republicans resurrected their border bill Friday morning and said they were on track to pass the rewritten measure later in the day — though with the Senate gone for the summer the vote will be more a political statement than a policy-making exercise.
GOP leaders weren’t making any predictions after suffering an embarrassing conservative rebellion on Thursday, which forced them back to the drawing board, but rank-and-file lawmakers said they believed they had finally corralled enough votes to pass it.
“We will finish the job. We will get it passed tonight,” said Rep. Matt Salmon, an Arizona Republican who said the changes made overnight were critical to earning enough votes.
The crux of the bill sends hundreds of millions of dollars to immigration agencies to house the illegal immigrant children and families surging across the border, and makes changes to a 2008 law that made it difficult to deport children from Central America.
In order to attract enough support, Republicans also added in another bill that would halt President Obama’s non-deportation policy for so-called Dreamers, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Conservatives had supported both of those policies in general but balked at the way the bills were written, arguing they left too many loopholes that they believed Mr. Obama would use in refusing to enforce the laws.
As of late Friday morning GOP lawmakers were rewriting their bills to try to accommodate those concerns.
The procedural hiccups signal just how touchy the immigration issue is. Many Republicans want to vote on the strongest possible statement opposing Mr. Obama’s policies, and they fear his claims of unilateral authority to pick and choose how he enforces immigration laws.
Democratic leaders, meanwhile, have called for the GOP to forgo changes to the law, and instead want to see a bill that only spends money to house and care for the tens of thousands of children and families from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras that are crossing the Rio Grande in search of a foothold in the U.S.
But Senate Democrats failed to win enough votes for that plan on Thursday, with even some of their own party colleagues joining Republicans in saying it doesn’t do anything to stop the flow of children.
After their failure, Senate Democrats closed the chamber down and sent most lawmakers home for a five-week summer vacation, meaning that regardless of what the House does, nothing can be sent to Mr. Obama’s desk.
“They never should have left in the first place,” said Rep. Michele M. Bachmann, Minnesota Republican. “We were here actively engaged on the House side, getting the job done on immigration. They couldn’t get the job done in the Senate.”
Rep. Phil Gingrey, Georgia Republican, said that at the very least the House had avoided a PR “disaster.”
“If we had gone home yesterday, I think that would have been a disaster,” said Rep. Phil Gingrey, Georgia Republican. “There is a humanitarian issue and you can’t explain all the nuances and connect every dot to all of 7,000 constituents. They are going to read the newspaper and they’re going to say, ‘Oh, those Republicans went home, didn’t have a vote and now they are going on a five-week vacation.’”