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White House border request could spark battle over funding bill

Migrants near Arriaga, Mexico, wait to board La Besta, or The Beast, the name for the infamous train that carries them northward.
Migrants near Arriaga, Mexico, wait to board La Besta, or The Beast, the name for the infamous train that carries them northward.
(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

Hopes for a drama-free return to Congress hit a snag Friday as the White House asked lawmakers to accelerate spending to handle the migrant children at the Southwestern border -- a request that could spark a fresh round of shutdown politics.

The provision, just one of many technical revisions submitted by the administration for the budget bill, comes as congressional leaders were aiming for a no-strings-attached resolution to fund the government past the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30.

“Support for the administration’s strategy remains critical to managing the situation this year,” said an official for the White House Office of Management and Budget who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

The official said the OMB is working with Congress on “options to address the situation under a CR,” as the continuing resolution spending bill is called.

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Lawmakers have just one main job when they get back to work next week: Approve a bill to keep the government running and avoid a federal shutdown after Sept. 30.

House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio has encouraged his restive Republican majority to focus on “getting our work done” during the brief two-week session, according to those familiar with his private conference call with lawmakers this week.

Republicans are favored to make electoral gains this fall, and possibly win control of the Senate, and party strategists believe voters will have little tolerance for shutdown antics, as happened with last year’s 16-day shutdown over attempts to end the Affordable Care Act, often known as Obamacare.

For the border, the administration wants permission to more quickly spend the money it has already been allotted to ensure the Border Patrol and other departments can continue to process and care for the more than 65,000 unaccompanied children who have arrived since last October primarily in the Rio Grande Valley.

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Congress failed to pass the administration’s earlier request for border crisis funds this summer. The House passed a scaled-back measure, but it was ignored by the Senate, where Democrats did not have enough votes to pass the president’s more costly plan.

A Senate aide said Friday that various options were being discussed to deal with the border crisis, including simply adding more money.

“Among the range of options is adding some money for the border,” the aide said.

Already, the Homeland Security Department and the Department of Health and Human Services have shifted funds to handle the crisis, but were poised to run out of money by the end of summer.

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A substantial decline in summer border crossings alleviated some of the pressure, though experts say that, as cooler weather returns, crossings could again be on the rise.

For the latest from Congress follow @LisaMascaroinDC


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