Obama aims to shift border crisis political debate

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 10, 2014 at 10:30 am •  Published: July 10, 2014
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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Faced with a potentially awkward scene at the Texas-Mexico border, President Barack Obama sought to recast the political debate over a flood of young migrants as a question of Republican willingness to tackle the problem, not his decision to skip a chance to view the crisis first-hand.

Obama turned to one of his chief critics, Texas' Republican Gov. Rick Perry, to try to make his point.

Following a meeting with Perry in Dallas Wednesday, the president suggested there was little daylight between Perry's calls for additional assistance at the border and the nearly $4 billion request Obama sent to Congress this week. He also made a public appeal for Perry, a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2016, to wield his influence with Texas' Republican-heavy congressional delegation and press them to back the emergency spending package.

"The only question at this point is why wouldn't the Texas delegation or any of the other Republicans who are concerned about this not want to put this on a fast track and get this on my desk so I can sign it and we can start getting to work?" Obama said. He argued that opposition to the urgent spending request would be part of a pattern of obstructionism from Republicans who have also resisted moving forward on a comprehensive immigration bill.

Back in Washington, Republican opposition to the request hardened. Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, have criticized the plan as a "blank check" and Arizona Sen. John McCain voiced his opposition to the measure Wednesday.

Perry, in his own statement following the meeting, made no promises to help Obama shore up GOP support for the supplemental spending package and instead doubled down on the notion that the border crisis was the result of Obama's "bad public policy" on immigration.

Obama arrived in Texas under pressure from Republicans like Perry, as well as some Democrats, to add a trip to the border to his two-day fundraising swing. The White House steadfastly resisted those calls, insisting there was little the president could learn from a border visit that he didn't already know.

"I'm not interested in photo ops," Obama said Wednesday. "I'm interested in solving a problem."

Still, Obama and his advisers clearly recognized the political liabilities of ignoring the immigration crisis while working the Texas donor circuit. The White House added an immigration meeting with local officials and faith leaders to Obama's schedule in Dallas and took the unusual step of having Perry fly with Obama on the presidential helicopter so the two could discuss the matter.

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