- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2014

Both the House and Senate failed to pass their respective border bills Thursday, marking a last gasp of legislative futility before a five-week recess and leaving President Obama to grapple alone — with no increased money or powers — with the surge of illegal immigrant children.

The Senate Democrats’ bill fell on a procedural vote after senators from both parties balked at giving Mr. Obama money to house the children without changing the lax immigration policies that they say entice illegal immigrants to come to the U.S. in the first place.

House Republican leaders’ bill did make some changes to cancel Mr. Obama’s policies and make it easier to deport children from Central America. But conservatives rebelled, saying the changes didn’t go far enough, and they forced their leaders to scuttle the bill.

SEE ALSO: Boehner blinks: GOP leaders delay border bill, leave Obama in control

Republicans were trying to write another version late Thursday night for a possible vote Friday, but with senators already heading for airplanes, nothing could clear Capitol Hill until September.

That puts the focus squarely on Mr. Obama, who has hinted that he has some flexibility to detain and expedite deportations of the tens of thousands of Central American children and families crossing the border illegally — though he has been reluctant to do so.

“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,” House Republican leaders said in a joint statement Thursday afternoon.

Democrats said that smacked of hypocrisy. A day earlier, House Republicans voted to sue Mr. Obama for taking too much action on his own.

The competing bills showed just how divisive the immigration issue has become in recent years.

Senate Democrats wanted to spend nearly $3 billion to house and care for the children, but rejected efforts to change a 2008 law that requires the government to place the young illegal immigrants with their families and send them through lengthy court proceedings.

House Republicans called for spending only $659 million — good enough to last another two months — and attached policy changes, including reversing the 2008 law and waiving environmental rules so the Border Patrol could pursue illegal immigrants across sensitive federal lands.

In an effort to win conservative support, Republicans added another bill that would have canceled Mr. Obama’s 2012 policy granting young adult illegal immigrants, so-called dreamers, tentative legal status.

Mr. Obama vowed to veto the House legislation, and Democrats said it smacked of cruelty.

“I guess it is harder to take candy from children than they thought,” said Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat. “The number of kids who have come to this country from Central America fleeing violence could all fit in Soldier Field with room to spare, yet about 60,000 kids have made adult American legislators lose their marbles. Republicans could not agree on how to deport them fast enough and the Democrats were not going to let a decade or more of progress in improving our asylum and human trafficking laws get thrown out for election-year politics.”

Even some Democrats said the laws must be changed to remove the incentives that have caused some 60,000 Central American children, and tens of thousands more family members, to jump the U.S. border this year.

Smugglers have told families that if they can get to the U.S., they will be released pending their immigration court hearings.

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