Capitol in knots on immigration

House GOP, Senate Democrats set to consider competing legislation

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WASHINGTON — House Republicans unveiled a slimmed-down bill Tuesday to address the immigration crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border by sending in National Guard troops and speeding migrant youths back home. The election-year measure would allow Republicans to say they tried to solve the humanitarian problem in South Texas, even though it stands no chance of becoming law.

The bill would cost $659 million through the final two months of this fiscal year, far less than the $3.7 billion requested by President Barack Obama for this year and next, and a sharp reduction from the $1.5 billion initially proposed by the House spending committee. The cuts were designed to win over skeptical conservatives and give lawmakers something they could pass before leaving Washington at week’s end for their annual August recess.

The measure also includes policy changes rejected by most Democrats that would allow unaccompanied youths who have been arriving by the tens of thousands from Central America to be turned around quickly at the border and sent back home. “I think there’s sufficient support in the House to move this bill,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters after meeting with rank-and-file lawmakers on the issue, though he said there was more work to do. A vote was set for Thursday.

Even if it does pass the House, the bill is certain to be rejected by the Democratic-run Senate, which was set to take a procedural vote on its own $2.7 billion border package today. The Senate bill, which does not include the policy changes embraced by the House, lacks GOP support and seemed unlikely to move forward.

The Senate bill also includes money for Western wildfires and Israeli defense that was left out of the House version. So there appeared to be no path to a compromise that could send a bill to Mr. Obama’s desk ahead of the five-week congressional recess.

Complicating matters further, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., floated the idea of using the House measure as a vehicle for advancing a comprehensive immigration overhaul bill, including a path to citizenship for millions now in the U.S. illegally, which is anathema to many Republicans. That legislation passed the Senate a year ago but stalled in the House.

“Maybe it’s an opening for us to have a conference on our comprehensive immigration reform,” Mr. Reid told reporters.

House conservatives have warned repeatedly that anything they pass could become a vehicle for the Senate’s immigration bill, and Mr. Reid’s comments seemed to confirm their worst fears. Perhaps that was intentional, since the result could be to limit conservative support for the House’s border spending bill.

Mr. Boehner responded angrily, accusing Mr. Reid of “making a deceitful and cynical attempt to derail the House’s common-sense solution.” In a statement, the speaker said, “So let me be as clear as I can be with Senator Reid: The House of Representatives will not take up the Senate immigration reform bill or accept it back from the Senate in any fashion.”

If Mr. Reid’s ploy was intended to upset Mr. Boehner’s efforts, it was unclear whether it would succeed. Numerous House Republicans have said they do not want to go back to their districts to face voters without having acted to deal with the influx of children and teens showing up at the South Texas border without their parents, mostly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. More than 57,000 have arrived since October, many fleeing vicious gangs and trying to reunite with family members.

United States - North America - United States government - Central America - Latin America and Caribbean - Barack Obama - United States Congress - District of Columbia - John Boehner - U.S. Republican Party - United States Senate - Harry Reid - United States House of Representatives - Mexico - Tom Cole - Nydia Velazquez


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