U.S. Senate legislation giving President Barack Obama $2.7-billion (U.S.) to deal with tens of thousands of Central American migrant children amassing at the southwestern U.S. border was blocked on Thursday by Republican opposition.
By a vote of 50-44, 10 short of the 60 needed, the bill failed to clear a procedural hurdle. Republicans objected to the cost of the measure and complained that it would not be effective in discouraging rising illegal migration of children from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
Earlier on Thursday, the House of Representatives failed to pass a $659-million funding bill that the White House had threatened to veto. House Republican leaders are trying to figure out a way to bring a border-security bill back to the chamber for passage.
The action came hours before the Senate adjourns for a five-week recess.
House Republicans are still working to pass a border bill in the House, but even if they succeed, the legislation will not go anywhere.
That means Congress is heading out for its summer recess without acting to deal with tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors who’ve been arriving at the border from Central America.
Tea Party-backed Senator Ted Cruz of Texas had his fingerprints all over Thursday’s debacle for House Speaker John Boehner. Mr. Cruz, a potential 2016 presidential contender, had lobbied his House Republican colleagues to reject the legislation on the grounds that it was too timid.
The measure, complained Mr. Cruz, would not reverse President Barack Obama’s 2012 policy of suspending deportations of undocumented residents who were brought to the United States as children by their parents.
Shortly after the drama unfolded on the floor of the House of Representatives, rank-and-file Republicans were publicly warring with each other.
“Someday, Republicans will wise up and stop listening to Ted Cruz,” a disgusted Peter King of New York told reporters. Mr. Cruz and a handful of other Republicans, Mr. King said, “have hijacked the party.”
Contrast that with a pleased Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota Tea Party activist and failed 2012 presidential candidate.
“The people are very clear. They want people deported immediately,” Ms. Bachmann said. “And they want to have the fence built up so that they don’t come in. They are tired of seeing their tax dollars spent on people who are here illegally in the United States.”
All this comes as Mr. Boehner and moderate Republicans try to expand Republican Party appeal to the growing number of Hispanic voters who roundly rejected Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.
Thursday’s theatrics were not the first time Mr. Cruz proved to be a thorn in Boehner’s side.
The freshman Texas senator engineered October’s government shutdown when he prevailed upon House Republicans to withhold federal funds until Mr. Obama’s signature health-care law was either repealed or hobbled.
In the end, “Obamacare” was untouched, agency funding was restored after a damaging 16-day shutdown and public opinion polls showed that voters were disgusted with Republican tactics.
With a report from Associated Press
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