From FNC’s Chad Pergram: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Border Policy Changes/Spending Request


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Border Policy Changes/Spending Request (from FNC’s Chad Pergram):

It appears that there will be two tracks in the coming days to try to approve policy changes to help with the crisis at the border and also give the administration some money to cope with the problem..but not cough up the entire $4.3 billion emergency supplemental spending request. And there will be an effort to wrap this up by the end of the month.

When Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson met with Blue Dog Democrats on the Hill last night, standing foursquare behind pushing for the full supplemental. But after meeting with lawmakers today, Johnson opened some daylight, as though the administration may accept something less.

“This is something that has to be worked on by the legislative branch and members should scrutinize our request carefully because we’re talking about taxpayer dollars obviously,” Johnson said.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) indicated this morning that the bill would be less than the full spending request but would not give a dollar figure nor say whether this was part of an “emergency” supplemental spending package. Deeming it to be an “emergency” gives Congress the ability to bust caps as set out on the Budget Control Act (BCA) which set sequestration.

So one bill, of an undetermined cost will deal with cost. Another bill will deal with policy changes.

Why two bills?

House Republicans are already nervous about spending additional money – especially if it isn’t offset. One senior House GOP figure tells Fox there is an effort to offset the money, but they are unsure if they can do so.

“The president is for spending more money that we don’t have,” said Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL). “The spending is irresponsible and asinine.”

House GOP leaders know they have to bite the bullet on the spending side and concoct a bill which spends much less than the supplemental…but gives DHS, HHS, ICE and CPB the money it needs to get it through the rest of the fiscal year (ICE and CBP are running out quickly). Then when Congress needs to approve an omnibus or Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government open past September 30 (the end of the government’s fiscal year), any additional money can be tacked on there. The idea is that none of these agencies need $4.3 billion just to skate through the next few months.

“We are trying to sift out the request for the dollars itself that needs to be done immediately,” said Rogers, insisting that such a fight “is not a headache.”

Rogers says that they can’t do the numbers for the spending bill until they figure out the policy proposals (more on that in a minute).

The House GOP leadership realizes that regardless of the structure of the spending bill, Republicans may only be able to provide 50-70 yea votes on that side of the ledger. Consider the emergency funding bill to help victims of Hurricane Sandy where only 49 Republicans voted yea. So the rest of the yeas would have to come from the Democrats…who AREN’T going to vote no for the money…even though many want what the president requested.

Here’s why they have to make two bills:

The policy changes will involve changing the ’08 law to make it easier to send folks back, strengthening border security and also deterring additional illegal immigrants from arriving at the border. Democrats are very skeptical about some of the changes to the ’08 law.

“I don’t think a lot of Democrats are interested in changing this (law) just to expedite the process,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (D-CA). “Democrats want to make sure due process (for the unaccompanied minors) remains part of the system.”

So, the Republicans will probably have to carry most of the water on that bill with only some Democratic support. The problem with blending the bills together is that members on both sides have reasons to vote no and that could torpedo the entire process.

The fate of all of this is in question in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) opposes the bill to alter the ’08 law. And when asked if the Senate would go away before the start of the August recess, the Nevada Democrat replied “I hope not.” Again, the Senate may have to get 60 votes to advance any legislation to the floor and to a final vote…which could get rather tricky considering the timetable.

That said, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is keeping his powder dry. Cruz says he first wants to see “specifics,” regardless of the cost and regardless of any potential offsets.

“My view is that Congress passes something that actually fixes the problem,” Cruz said. “The focus should be less on the dollars.

But Cruz is not threatening to blow up things yet. And again, a possible splitting of the bills could help in the Senate too.