Conservative Republicans Stumble Toward a Border Bill

After they successfully nuked a GOP border proposal Thursday, Republicans have passed legislation that would threaten thousands with deportation.

Alex Wong/Getty

Republicans responded to a conservative mutiny over the border crisis Friday by passing a bill that could expose hundreds of thousands to the threat of deportation.

Conservative skepticism this week centered on an executive ordered issued by President Obama known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals’ memorandum, or DACA. DACA delays deportation for undocumented young people who arrived in the United States before their 16th birthday and have gone to school or served in the military.

DACA reprieves are provided for a two year period, and conservative Republicans are hoping to end renewals to the program.

On Thursday evening, Republican leadership sat across from the 20 or so conservative Republicans who had objected to the border bill that was scheduled for a vote earlier in the day before it was eventually pulled due to lack of support.

By Friday, Rep. Michele Bachmann, one of the holdouts who had objected to the Thursday bill, was bragging to reporters that she and her conservative colleages had "gutted" that legislation.

But the victory rings hollow. House members essentially have salvaged what was, even before the chaos, a largely symbolic gesture before a month-long recess period. With the Senate already adjourned, the bill will not be addressed until the fall. Rather than allowing House GOP lawmakers to go home and tell their constituents that they had acted on the border crisis, the confusion of this week’s Congressional drama served merely to reemphasize the deep divisions in the Republican Party.

Congress voted Friday on two separate planks related to the border crisis.

First, lawmakers voted on and passed a bill authorizing nearly $700 million to address the surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the border, along with $35 million for a National Guard deployment. They then voted on a bill to halt DACA renewals, meaning that a half million individuals could be subject to deportation once their two-year reprieve from deportations expires.

Republicans had been confident that the new language would pass the House. The conservative Republicans who forced changes to the bill appeared triumphant after a Friday morning Republican all-hands meeting.

Rep. Steve King of Iowa said he was very glad “the things he offered to fix the bill” were adopted. “The president cannot make up immigration law on his own, he can’t create work permits out of thin air, he’s got to abide by the constitution.”

Bachmann, calling the votes on the border crisis “arguably the most monumental vote that we will take in this entire term,” said that the bill would be effective in “stopping the invasion of illegal foreign nationals into our country.”

But there remained some conservative holdouts, who objected over technical details about how the bills will be voted on, and how rushed the process was.

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Rep. Mo Brooks, a congressman from Alabama, told The Daily Beast he remains a “no” because members of Congress will be forced to vote even before they’ve had a chance to study the legislative language closely.

Rep. John Fleming, a conservative Republican from Louisiana, said he was worried about the votes happening in two stages, rather than as part of one package. “There are those who are more moderate in our conference who actually don’t want to see an end to DACA,” he said. “So as a result of that they could theoretically ... vote against or just not vote at all when it comes to DACA. If we only fix the border, or at least put money on the border and do nothing about DACA, we only make the problem worse.”

Brooks shared those views, saying that if the “DACA bill were a part of the border bill, and it was one bill, the DACA provisions would be sufficient to cause me to vote for the bill. … The border legislation in and of itself is not very effective ... and it’s very costly.”

The House-passed border legislation now heads to a Senate that is already in recess for the summer, and stands little to no chance of ever becoming law.