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Immigration issue produces congressional disarray

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 31, 2014 at 7:10 pm •  Published: July 31, 2014
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Once more, the tea party forced House Speaker John Boehner to blink.

Minutes from a vote on legislation to deal with the immigration surge on the U.S.-Mexico border, and hours from scheduled adjournment for the summer, a conservative revolt left the speaker with no choice but to pull his border bill from the floor.

Most House Republicans were eager to pass the $659 million measure and tell voters back home they acted on the border crisis, which is suddenly registering as a top concern in polls three months before midterm elections.

But a core group of conservative lawmakers, some of the same holdouts who forced the government shutdown last fall, were unpersuaded.

Reluctant to give President Barack Obama any money for a problem they believed to be of his own making, and unconvinced that there would be a political price for inaction, the lawmakers strategized with firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz over pizza and held fast against Boehner's entreaties.

It wasn't enough even when Boehner bent to their demands and agreed to hold a separate vote on legislation aimed at reining in Obama's ability to take executive actions on deportations.

When it came time to vote Thursday on the border spending bill, there was an unexplained pause in the proceedings on the House floor, and suddenly the reading clerk called up an unrelated highway bill instead.

Not long after, Republicans gathered in the basement of the Capitol for an emergency meeting.

Several members raced back from the airport for the conference and had already changed into polo shirts and jeans.

They wanted to move forward, but what would change?

"I'm hoping some people will grow up," said Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala.

Boehner took the unusual step of delaying Congress' summer recess, which had been scheduled to begin on Friday, and House Republicans agreed to meet again in the morning to see if they could find a bill that could pass.

In the Senate, meanwhile, a much different bill to spend $2.7 billion to address the border crisis died on a procedural vote as expected, and senators prepared to adjourn for recess. So even if the House did succeed in passing a bill Friday, there was no prospect for reaching a deal to send a bill to Obama's desk.

Even so, most House Republicans insisted they wanted to act.

"The American people expect us to do our jobs," said moderate GOP Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. "We have both a border and humanitarian crisis to deal with, and they expect us to take action, now."

Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, an author of the border measure, said she was expecting changes that would make parts of the legislation more specific, such as detailing who would pay for deploying the National Guard.

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