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Immigration bill critics focus on health law delay

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 6, 2013 at 2:27 am •  Published: August 6, 2013

Some proponents of an immigration overhaul dismiss the implementation argument as an excuse from House Republicans looking for reasons not to act on a politically explosive issue that some still characterize as amnesty for lawbreakers.

"If that's the logic, that Obama won't enforce the law if we pass it, then pass no laws. It's ludicrous to say that. If the president doesn't enforce laws, we have ways to go to court and force him, or her, to enforce laws," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., an author of the immigration bill in the Senate. "Of all the reasons I've heard in opposition to immigration, that's the one that has no validity whatsoever."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has rejected the Senate's immigration bill and says the House will proceed with narrowly tailored bills, beginning with border security. Timing is uncertain, especially because the House has only nine legislative days scheduled in September and faces pressing fiscal and budgetary deadlines.

House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul, R-Texas, says he's spoken with Boehner about action in September or early October on a border security bill approved by his panel in May.

That bill, which has found support among conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats, would require the secretary of homeland security to develop a strategy to gain operational control of the border within five years and a plan to implement the strategy. It calls on the Government Accountability Office to oversee the steps being taken.

The bill doesn't call for new spending, and stands in contrast to the approach taken in the Senate, where a last-minute compromise designed to attract more GOP votes would provide for a "border surge" with $46 billion in new spending on drones, helicopters and other technology, a doubling of agents patrolling the border with Mexico and hundreds of miles of new fencing.

Even some supporters called the Senate deal overkill, and McCain acknowledged recently that 20,000 additional border patrol agents really weren't necessary. And although the deal was designed to win over Republicans concerned about border security, it hasn't convinced many in the House. They describe the Senate approach as throwing money at the problem and complain that it still gives too much discretion to the Obama administration.

McCaul said that his bill, in contrast, would take politics out of the equation by giving oversight to the Government Accountability Office. Now he's trying to convince skeptical colleagues.

"That's what I tell my members," McCaul said, "is that, 'Yeah, I know you don't think he's going to follow anything, but he's got to report to the Congress and to my committee, and if they're not following the law, they have to follow the law.'"