"Speaker Cruz" Tanks John Boehner's Border Security Bill (Updated)
Amid tea party-driven chaos, the House Speaker first fails to pass his own legislation—and then wins with a more extreme bill.
Update, August 1, 9:57 p.m. EST: Surprise! A day after House Republicans fell into dysfunctional mayhem, they rallied to pass a supplemental spending bill that devotes $694 million to border security measures. The House approved the bill 223-189, with one Democrat voting in favor and four Republicans voting nay. It was a face-saving measure after House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday pulled the original bill right before it was supposed to receive a vote. But this supposed GOP victory is mostly a meaningless gesture. The Senate has already left town for the August recess, and the upper chamber likely wouldn't have approved the House's border bill anyway, with Democrats claiming it doesn't offer enough additional funds and contains harsh provisions easing the deportation of children.
Boehner managed to win back the tea party wing of his party by pairing the spending bill with a stricter measure rolling back President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an executive order that granted two-year waivers to 580,000 so-called DREAMers, young undocumented immigrants who grew up in the US. The anti-DACA bill—which passed by a 216-192 vote later Friday night—would bar the Obama administration from offering new DACA waivers or renewing current DACA beneficiaries when their two years are up. This bill was a show vote, for the Senate and Obama would never go along with it. But this was the GOP message of the day: in order to win the support of tea party Republicans for a bill with spending to ease the humanitarian crisis underway at the border, Boehner had to give these conservatives a vote to toss out the DREAMers.
The House GOP fell into chaos and bickering Thursday afternoon, when House Speaker John Boehner yanked a pair of bills from the floor at the last minute. The House was supposed to have an easy final day of work before members jetted home for their five-week summer recess. But Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), starring in a cameo role as Speaker of the Tea Party, sabotaged Boehner's best-laid plans.
The GOP leadership had originally intended to pass a limited spending measure to bolster border security and immediately scoot off, leaving the final tricky decision-making to the Senate. But the tea party wing of the House—inspired and encouraged by Cruz—revolted against Boehner and refused to go along with the spending bill. The House border-security measure would have appropriated $659 million in emergency spending, far less than the $3.7 billion that President Obama had requested. But it was still too much for many GOPers and it lacked the hardline, anti-immigration reform provisions many Republicans craved. With House Democratic leaders discouraging their members from voting for the GOP's bill, Boehner was left scrambling this week to pull together a majority, and he needed votes from the strident group of right-wingers who have been a thorn in his side since 2010. Those tea partiers don't want to give any extra money to the president. Boehner wasn't going to win their support without offering them some large barrels of carrots.