House GOP Reaches Border Deal, but Holdouts Fear Bait-and-Switch

by Joel Gehrke

House Republicans are on the cusp of passing a border package that appeared dead Thursday afternoon, as Republican negotiators picked up votes by changing the asylum provisions in the bill and restoring the anti-DACA language preferred by Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and Representative Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.).

The new bill takes $35 million that was previously slated for Central American countries and uses it to support the National Guard in border states. It also replaces the original asylum language with provisions offered by Representative Robert Aderholt (R., Ala.,) and Representative John Carter (R., Texas) in order to bar immigrants from getting multiple bites at the apple.

The updated legislation would also change the 2008 human trafficking law to establish that unaccompanied children from Central American countries and contiguous countries (Mexico and Canada) got through the same process; the previous version also changed the 2008 law, but it allowed Mexican and Canadian kids to participate in the process used for Central American children rather than putting Central American children on the contiguous countries process.

“I don’t know why [the drafters of the original bill] went the wrong direction, but we’ve gotten the process right,” Representative Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) told National Review Online after a Friday morning Republican conference meeting.

The changes to the bill were hammered out in Thursday evening by about 15 House Republicans — which featured Blackburn, Goodlatte, Raul Labrador (Idaho), Mick Mulvaney (South Carolina), Tom Cotton  (Arkansas), Lou Barletta (Pennsylvania), Steve King (Iowa), Louis Gohmert (Texas), and John Fleming (Louisiana), among others — who met in the basement of the Capitol.

“There were literally people who walked in that room, they were ‘no,’ pretty well ‘no’ no matter what, they were against this bill,” Barletta told NRO Friday morning. “But because of this process, we were able to find enough in the bill that they could support it.”

Labrador helped bring Steve King on board by removing the original language and replacing it with Carter-Aderholt. King also needed the House to take up Blackburn’s language targeting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in its original form as a companion to Cruz’s legislation.

“Marsha had a good bill which was taken and things were added to it which actually made it more of a problem for others,” one member in the meeting told NRO. “There were small hints that some felt that left holes, through their own interpretation, felt that there were holes that the president could use.”

The negotiators restored Blackburn’s original language. “Once those changes were made, [King] was fine,” the member said.

As welcome as the negotiation was, it left some opponents of the original bill annoyed that it didn’t take place earlier.

“It was just a markup of the bill, which should have happened four weeks ago in the Judiciary Committee,” another congressman in attendance said of the meeting. “Half the Judiciary committee was there. I’m exaggerating, but a lot of the Judiciary Committee players were there.”

The language providing the border supplemental funding will not include the Blackburn bill that fixes DACA in the same vote, though, which has at least one immigration hawk worried that the supplemental funding will pass the House and then some Republicans will break their word and vote against the Blackburn bill.

“What if the border bill passes and DACA fails?” Fleming mused to NRO. “The DACA fix bill will be [voted on] second . . . Leadership assures me that DACA will pass; now, they’re not so sure themselves that they’re willing to let us vote on it first to be sure. So, that creates a lot of anxiety for me.”

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) wrote asylum provisions which were included in the original bill and then removed.