WASHINGTON -- With only a week to go before the August recess, House Republicans have yet to coalesce around the specifics of a bill to address the border crisis, but likely will approve less than a third of the funding the president requested.
Members said after meeting on Friday that they hope to take up legislation next week that would provide less than $1 billion -- down from the $1.5 billion discussed earlier this week -- to deal with the more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors who have been apprehended crossing the U.S. border illegally since October.
The $1.5 billion in funding previously discussed is already far below Obama's $3.7 billion request and the Senate's proposal for $2.7 billion. That issue of funding, and the likelihood that any House package will be attached to measures Democrats oppose, could make it impossible that anything will get done before Congress leaves town for a month.
While members mostly agreed they should do something, they still haven't finalized a bill.
"There's a lot of nervousness among a lot of the members about a lot of things," Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) told reporters after the Republican meeting. "Some are nervous that we won't do anything, some are nervous that we'll do too much. ... These conversations are always fascinating because you'll start with a range of opinions about this far apart, and eventually you begin to see what the consensus is. We are not at that point yet."
Republican members have said any funding package must include changes to a 2008 trafficking law that gives unaccompanied minors from non-contiguous countries a more extensive hearings process than those from Mexico and Canada, effectively slowing down their deportations. They also say the National Guard should be deployed to the border and more immigration judges are needed in order to speed up removal proceedings.
But more Republicans are saying Obama should also end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the policy that allows young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children before June 2007 to apply to stay temporarily. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introduced a bill in the Senate that would end the program, and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) has a companion bill in the House.
Republican members said although no decisions have been made, there are discussions about including a similar measure to their package because they believe DACA is in part responsible for illegal immigration.
"The problem is DACA," Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) told reporters. "There's a perception out there that's it's OK to do this and to pay someone money to take your child to America. And it's just a wrong perception."
Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) said Republicans are willing to work with Obama, but only if he agrees to end DACA, send National Guard troops to the border and work with Congress on changes to the 2008 law. Otherwise, they can't trust the president to follow through with any bill they pass, he said.
"Let's say theoretically it makes it all the way to the president's desk and he signs it," Fleming said. "It'll be yet another law that the president will ignore and not enforce."
Some members said adding DACA did not need to be part of the proposal. Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), who led the working group that introduced proposals to address the border crisis, told reporters she did not think this was the time to change DACA, although she said other policy changes are needed as part of any funding package.
She confirmed the amount will likely be less than the $1.5 billion discussed earlier this week. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), a member of the working group, told reporters there was no legislation yet, but that it "will include the bare minimum."
Some members said they were concerned about going back to their districts without addressing the issue. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) said he thinks "it would be a terrible message" to leave Washington without doing anything about the border crisis.
"I believe there is consensus that we need to move a legislative package out of here before we leave next week," Dent said. "What's going to be in that package, we're going to be debating."
Marina Fang and Sam Levine contributed reporting.