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House GOP toughens border proposal but is still struggling for votes

House Republicans toughen border bill, but still not sure it can pass
Conservatives join Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in blocking House GOP border bill

House Republicans expressed confidence Friday that they would win passage of a revised $694-million measure to provide emergency funds for the border crisis, but only after making the package tougher on immigrants and adding more money for border state governors, namely Texas' Rick Perry.

Whether the two-bill package can pass the House, however, remained uncertain as Democrats largely opposed it and conservatives inspired by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas still had objections.

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FOR THE RECORD

Aug. 1, 12:36 p.m.: An earlier version of this story said the border measure would cost $694 billion. It would cost $694 million.

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After failing to muster enough support for an earlier package on Thursday, House Speaker John A. Boehner postponed lawmakers' August break, which was scheduled to begin Friday. But by Friday afternoon, no votes were scheduled.

Cruz, a potential presidential hopeful, inspired a revolt among conservative Republicans over the original border proposal, and on Friday, tea party activists continued a campaign to derail the bills unless there were guarantees that President Obama's attempts to legalize some immigrants, as the White House has promised, would be stopped.

Lawmakers are loathe to return home with little progress having been made on the crisis at the border -- where more than 57,000 migrant children have arrived unaccompanied since last October.

Even if the House Republicans can end their infighting long enough to pass the legislation, there is almost no chance the measure would become law. The House approach is far from the $2.7-billion Senate bill, which failed to advance before the Senate broke for August.

Lawmakers and aides in the House worked late into the evening to tweak the Republican proposals and win broader support.

An additional $35 million was added to reimburse border state governors for National Guard troops on the border -- a proposal that would directly aid Perry, the only border-state governor to have enlisted the troops.

Additionally, the new Republican proposal would toughen rules on both the child migrants and the so-called Dreamers, the young people who arrived illegally in the United States as children and were given temporary protection against deportation under Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Under one bill, migrants at the border would lose an ability to have their cases heard by judicial officers unless they could show they were victims of trafficking or violence, a tightening of a 2008 anti-trafficking law. The bill would also remove a provision in the existing law that allows the children's cases to be sent for judicial review if minors are unable to understand the process.

A companion bill clips the president's Deferred Action program, which has already given legal status to 500,000 young people.

But the bill to block DACA is opposed by some Republican lawmakers -- particularly those from California and other states with larger immigrant populations.

"This is the House working," said Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.), a newly elected lawmaker, emerging from a morning meeting of Republicans in the Capitol basement. "This is the Congress working."

Democrats, though, lined up on the House floor to blast Republicans for having failed to consider broader immigration reform, and now faltering in efforts to stop the border crisis.

"We're looking at the most anti-Hispanic Congress in decades," said Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.).

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Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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