WASHINGTON -- Should Congress fail to approve funding to deal with the border crisis before the legislative recess in August, it will be President Barack Obama's fault, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday.
In a statement, Boehner said that a working group of House Republicans has completed its recommendations and will present them to the rest of the GOP conference on Wednesday. But he cautioned that nothing will happen "in a timely manner" if Obama and Democrats refuse to compromise, particularly on changing a 2008 law meant ensure hearings for unaccompanied minors from countries other than Mexico and Canada.
"I don't believe the American people will support sending more money to the border unless both parties work together to address these policies and actually solve this problem," Boehner said. "The lack of leadership from this White House, and President Obama's refusal to stand up to critics in his own political party, are jeopardizing our ability to find common ground and help the kids who are caught in the middle of this crisis."
Whether to change the 2008 law, or how to do so, has become one of the key fights as Congress considers a $3.7 billion funding request from Obama to handle a crisis of more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors who have crossed the border illegally this year. Most of the children and teenagers are from Central America, meaning they must be housed by the federal government and put through a hearing process in overburdened immigration courts with long wait times.
Republicans and some Democrats say that given the current influx, the law must be changed in order to speed up a process that currently allows many minors to remain in the country for months or even years while they await their hearings with an immigration judge. Most Democrats have been resistant to changing the law, arguing that the hearing process could be sped up without hurting due process for those who are eligible for asylum or a special visa.
While Obama has signaled that he would be willing to change the law, he did not propose doing so in conjunction with his funding request earlier this month.
Boehner said last week he was less optimistic than he would like to be about resolving the funding issue before the August recess because of Democrats' statements on the 2008 law.
The working group's recommendations will be key in crafting an appropriations bill, and are expected to include changes to the 2008 law on unaccompanied minors, bringing on more immigration judges to speed up the removal process, bolstering border patrol and sending National Guard troops to the border. Members of the working group said last week that their recommendations will also likely include funding for foreign governments to repatriate deported minors, as well as encouraging Mexico to secure its southern border, which would help prevent Central American immigrants from traveling through the country.
In addition to the presentation by the working group, which is led by Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) will brief the conference on his committee's review of Obama's funding request, Boehner said.
Although there are multiple bills related to the border crisis, most of them have focused more on enforcement than on funds to care for the unaccompanied minors already here, even though Obama's funding request included $1.8 billion for that purpose.
The Congressional Budget Office said Monday that only $25 million of Obama's $3.7 billion request might be spent before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, although that scenario assumes a bill would not actually be enacted until mid- to late-September. Republicans said the CBO report is proof that the need for funding isn't as urgent as Obama has claimed.
Senate Democrats said Monday that their chamber will take up the funding request late this week or next week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told Politico "it would be a shame" if they did not approve funding before lawmakers leave Washington for a congressional recess.
"They're going to start running out of money in August," he told Politico. "So we're ready to do it."
UPDATE: 12:10 p.m. -- White House Spokesman Josh Earnest responded to Boehner at a briefing later Tuesday, saying the funding is needed, in part, to "more efficiently and effectively process the claims that are made" by minors.
"The bottom line here is the federal government needs additional resources to make sure we are appropriately managing the urgent humanitarian situation at the border," Earnest said.