WASHINGTON — House Republicans managed Friday to overcome deep divisions within the party and passed a measure to address the child-migrant surge at the US-Mexico border.
The bill would provide emergency funding to deal with the crisis and speed up the deportations of most border crossers. A second measure, scheduled to be voted later Friday, would rescind President Obama’s authority to decide whether to deport certain illegal immigrants in the United States.
Also, the House voted to end the Obama administration’s deportation relief program for immigrants brought illegally as children.
The measures are unlikely to ever become law, as the White House, most Democrats and immigration advocates strongly oppose the proposals.
The votes amounted to a do-over and a critical victory for a new GOP leadership team and provided rank-and-file Republicans with recorded proof that they attempted to address the border issue, after struggling Thursday to reach intraparty consensus. But with the House unable to broker an agreement with the Senate over how to respond to Obama’s emergency request to handle the crisis, the president promised Friday that he would move ahead with his own response.
‘‘I'm going to have to act alone,’’ Obama said, because federal resources have run dry with the lack of legislation. ‘‘We've run out of money.’’
Obama continued his recent habit of castigating congressional Republicans, saying the party is not ‘‘actually trying to solve the problem’’ of immigration but instead attempting to pass legislation so they can ‘‘check a box before they leave town for a month.’’
The votes held late Friday — a rare occurrence any time of the year on Capitol Hill — capped a week of turmoil in the GOP ranks prompted by fierce opposition from the party’s conservative ranks to doing anything that could be perceived as an endorsement of Obama’s current immigration policy. With conservatives threatening to withhold support, top leaders abruptly withdrew border security legislation Thursday afternoon and announced plans to leave Washington without acting. Infuriated, several GOP moderates confronted Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on the House floor, forcing them to recalibrate and cancel plans to begin the recess.
The collapse of the original border security plan offered by House GOP leaders was a triumph for conservatives in the Republican caucus, who saw it as a high point in their troubled relationship with Boehner and his more centrist leadership team.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., one of those conservatives, described the retreat by Boehner as one of the highlights of her career, because the leadership was forced to mostly capitulate to the conservative demands.
‘‘Leadership knew they couldn’t pass their bill,’’ Bachmann said, and as a result were forced to agree to revisions offered by tea party members, led by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, a vocal opponent of Obama’s immigration policy who has been criticized by Democrats and immigration advocates for his harsh descriptions of migrants seeking to cross the border.
When the conservatives sat down to hash out differences with GOP leadership Thursday night in the basement of the US Capitol, ‘‘it went as smooth as silk,’’ Bachmann said. ‘‘Steve laid it out and in less than two hours we worked it out. It was really a painless process. But it was the first time that I've seen leadership recognize, with respect and admiration, the work that Steve King did. Steve helped to completely gut this bill.’’
Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., another conservative who attended the meeting, credited leaders for allowing conservatives to air their concerns. ‘‘Those concerns were addressed. To me, that’s the way the process should work,’’ he said.
By Friday the insurgents were feeling bullish. Walking into a closed-door meeting of Republicans, King told reporters, ‘‘I think we'll get a deal done.’’ Once inside, he spoke in support of the legislation.
Most rank-and-file members predicted that the struggle to secure the necessary votes would be quickly resolved.
‘‘I'm so confident I've got a packed bag,’’ Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, said Friday morning as he carried a military camouflaged backpack into the closed-door meeting. Other Republicans were seen pulling suitcases into the Capitol in anticipation of quick getaways.
Ultimately, members voted 223 to 189 to approve $694 million in additional funding for federal agencies dealing with the influx of immigrants — a sum far lower than Obama’s original $3.7 billion request. The bill would tweak a 2008 anti-trafficking law and make it easier for the government to deport Central American minors who have entered the United States illegally. It would also provide $35 million to border-state governors, who would be given broader legal authority to deploy the National Guard.
Concerns about a governor’s ability to deploy National Guard troops came to a head in recent weeks as Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, took steps to activate about 1,000 troops to deploy into the Rio Grande Valley, after he said Obama rebuffed requests for a federal deployment order.
Four Republicans voted against the bill.
All but one Democrats voted against the bill and were joined in opposition by several organizations working with illegal immigrants, including prominent religious leaders. In a letter sent to lawmakers ahead of the vote, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote that ‘‘How our nation responds to this challenge is a moral test of our national character.’’ The bill passed Friday night ‘‘fails to live up to that test,’’ the bishops wrote.
Support for the second border security measure, a more aggressive proposal backed by the most ardent conservatives remained unclear ahead of a vote later Friday. The proposal would curtail an Obama administration program that provides protections to about 500,000 immigrants who were brought to the country as children. Republicans in recent weeks have cited the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as a key enticement for illegal migrants seeking to make their way north into the United States.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., who represents a Miami-area district packed with immigrants from across Latin America, said he and other moderates planned to vote against the bill, ‘‘but I don’t criticize folks for being concerned about the president overstepping his constitutional boundary.’’
‘‘Most of the conservatives who have a problem [with DACA] have more of a problem with how the president did it than what the president did,’’ he said.
House Democrats, with little to do but wait for Republicans to decide how to proceed, tried in vain repeatedly Friday to introduce a competing immigration measure that includes proposal approved in a bipartisan fashion last year by the Senate. But Republicans objected each time.
Dozens of Democrats also took to the House floor to criticize Republicans for attempting to turn back young immigrants fleeing violence in Central America or for seeking to end the temporary relief provided to some children of illegal immigrants.
Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., said the Republican legislation ‘‘has only one message: ‘Deport! Deport! Deport!'’’
During a news conference held by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., switched between English and Spanish to express his outrage. Using Spanish to address Spanish-language television reporters, he said Republicans ‘‘want to punish our community. And the punishment will be reciprocated with a political punishment. Be sure that we are not going to forget the bad treatment that our community has received.’’
The votes held late Friday capped a week of turmoil on Capitol Hill as both chambers stumbled towards resolution on a series of complex issues. The Senate adjourned Friday after approving $225 million in emergency funding for Israel’s ‘‘Iron Dome’’ missile defense system, a measure later adopted by the House.
But senators failed to confirm dozens of nominees to serve as US ambassadors to several countries, including Guatemala — where much of the immigration crisis originates — and South Korea, a key Asian ally.
With lawmakers preparing to scatter across the globe for campaign rallies, town hall meetings, taxpayer-funded fact-finding missions and vacations with family and friends, House and Senate leaders made plans to reconvene the week of Sept. 8, with less than two weeks’ worth of legislative days scheduled before Election Day in November.