A chaotic House Republican conference decided on Thursday to delay the start of the August recess until they muster the votes for legislation to address the border crisis.
“We’ll stay until we vote,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) told reporters upon emerging from a full House GOP meeting that lasted more than one and a half hour.
The meeting was called after Republican leaders abruptly pulled their $659 million supplemental legislation, which also toughened up border security laws, ahead of a scheduled vote Thursday. The decision was made in the face of strong opposition from conservatives. Some on the right — including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) — griped the plan didn’t do enough to rein in President Barack Obama’s executive actions on deportations.
After the meeting ended, there was no clarity on when the vote would come up or what the final legislation would look like. House Republicans scheduled a meeting at 9 a.m. on Friday morning to discuss their next steps.
The frustration within the Republican conference was palpable. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said he was “disappointed” that the bill failed to secure the votes. Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) joked that the House “could be here until Christmas” to get the border bill done.
How long it’ll take is anybody’s guess. Republicans have been told to stay in town until at least Friday, with next steps to be determined. The Rules Committee was set to meet Thursday to pave the way for a speedy floor vote on Friday in the event that Republicans settle on legislation.
“I think we’re going to stay until we pass the bill, as far as I can tell,” Rep. Mike Petri (R-WI) said. “A couple days, next week, whenever the votes are there.”
Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) said the legislation may be modified before it comes to a vote. But he said there was “there’s a lot of cohesion” within the conference that members should stick around until they act.
“We’ll be here until we vote,” he said. “We’ve got a crisis on the border.”
It was an embarrassing start for the new GOP leadership team; Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) stepped down as majority leader on Thursday. He was replaced by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and the new majority whip is Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA).
Even if the House passes a bill, it likely won’t go anywhere in the Democratic-led Senate, which strongly disagrees with the reforms to immigration laws that Republicans want to enact. The White House has threatened to veto the existing bill. The GOP’s aim is to give members political cover so they can go home and tell constituents they voted to act to address the crisis of some 57,000 unaccompanied minors apprehended at the southern border within the last year.
House Democrats are waiting to see what Republicans come up with.
“These guys are just totally confused,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said on MSNBC. “They thought this was all set. They thought that with Scalise in the position he’s in, he could bring in the conservatives, the southern conservatives, the tea party caucus. But at the end of the day, again, it was Senator Cruz calling the shots. And that’s why people around here are calling him Speaker Cruz today.”