House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday he doesn't have "as much optimism as I'd like to have" that a bill to address the flood of Central American children crossing into the U.S. will get through the GOP-controlled chamber before the end of the month.
"We're working -- trying to find some way to deal with what is a humanitarian crisis at our border," Boehner said.
But the intensifying political debate makes it increasingly unlikely Congress will approve emergency funding for the crisis before lawmakers take a monthlong August break.
The White House is seeking $3.7 billion to shore up border-related agencies, which have warned they will run out of money in a matter of weeks.
The latest complication is a proposal by GOP Sen. Ted Cruz to cut off funding for President Obama's deferred-deportation program, which gives temporary legal status to some immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Cruz told reporters Thursday that Obama's 2012 executive order creating the so-called Dreamers program was the "underlying problem" to the current crisis.
"The reason these children are coming is because they believe when they get here, they will receive amnesty," Cruz said.
But Cruz's proposal does not rest well with some of his Republican colleagues, particularly since Cruz's hard-line approach to last fall's government shutdown left the GOP badly battered in public opinion.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), said while he agrees the Obama program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, should be halted, he worried that ending it now could be "too disruptive."
"This would be too much," said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who has offered his own proposal, with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), to stem the border crisis.
With just eight working days remaining before the long August break, prospects for a compromise are fading.
The House appears unable to act and a GOP working group has yet to even produce its proposal. The Democratic-led Senate is expected to hold a key test vote next week on the White House funding request, though it's unlikely to pass in the House.
Lawmakers have hardened their positions along a familiar partisan divide, with Democrats preferring to approve President Obama's funding request and Republicans insisting that tough policy changes must be included to deport the children and prevent more arrivals.
Already, 57,000 unaccompanied minors have come to the border since Oct. 1, many simply turning themselves over to officials in hopes of remaining in the U.S.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic minority leader, backed off her early willingness to go along with changes to a 2008 anti-trafficking law that would make it easier to swiftly deport the minors.
The administration and Republicans both support such a change as a way to send a message to Central American families not to send their children on the dangerous journey north. But several Democrats worry about deporting children to potentially dangerous conditions in their home countries.
"Let's be optimistic and hope that the better angels will prevail," Pelosi said Thursday, adding that the crisis provided an "opportunity to show our greatness as a nation" by treating the children humanely.
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