Friday, August 1, 2014

Congressman Ron Barber: Border Bill Fiasco Shows Congressional Leaders "Insist on Political Games Over Real Solutions"

Posted By on Fri, Aug 1, 2014 at 2:35 PM

As most Range readers know, there's been a bit of a crisis on the border with unaccompanied minors fleeing gang violence and other troubles in Central America and crossing into the United States because they hope they'll find some kind of asylum here.

So Republicans in the House of Representatives tried to pass a border bill yesterday, only to see the legislation collapse because Democrats found the legislation to be too draconian while Republican conservatives didn't find it draconian enough.

Talking Points Memo explains what happened here, while New York magazine's Jonathan Chait unpacks yesterday's fustercluck:

This particular bill pitted the GOP's desire to actually stop waves of illegal immigration children from streaming across the border — theoretically a point of bipartisan agreement — against their distrust of Obama in particular and legislation in general. Republicans dealt with the problem, as they often do, by crafting the most conservative possible bill — thus losing all Democratic support — yet still not conservative enough to win support from enough Republicans.

In the wake of defeat, first House Republicans decide to skip town without passing anything and go with the official message that it's Obama's fault:

"This situation shows the intense concern within our conference — and among the American people — about the need to ensure the security of our borders and the president’s refusal to faithfully execute our laws. There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries. For the past month, the House has been engaged in intensive efforts to pass legislation that would compel the president to do his job and ensure it can be done as quickly and compassionately as possible. Through an inclusive process, a border bill was built by listening to members and the American people that has the support not just of a majority of the majority in the House, but most of the House Republican Conference. We will continue to work on solutions to the border crisis and other challenges facing our country.”

The best part of this message is its demand that Obama act "without the need for congressional action." After they just decided to sue him for doing exactly that!

Anyway, the House has new, even more draconian legislation that they hope to take to a vote today. The Hill has details here and here.

The delay on the vote means that the House, which was supposed to wrap up work yesterday before starting the August recess, is now in overtime. And a lot of members of Congress who planned to leave yesterday have had to stick around. Among them is Congressman Ron Barber, who had to cancel a tour of the border with Congressman John Carney of Delaware.

Barber said the situation in Washington is in "disarray" and congressional leaders were too busy playing "political games" to seriously address the border issue.

Here's the press release from Barber's office:

U.S. Rep. Ron Barber and Congressman John Carney of Delaware were forced to cancel tomorrow’s planned tour of the Southern Arizona border with Mexico because House leaders today were unable to reach agreement on how to address the current security and humanitarian crisis on the border.

Instead, a member of Barber’s staff and a policy adviser to Carney will conduct the planned tour without the two members of Congress, who will stay in Washington to vote on potential legislation.

“The issues facing the people I represent who live and work on the border can only be understood by hearing from them and learning firsthand about their concerns regarding border security,” Barber said. “That’s why I invited Congressman Carney to visit Southern Arizona.

“But because leaders in Congress are in such disarray and insist on political games over real solutions to these critical security issues, I have had to cancel what I consider to be a very important trip to the border,” Barber added. “This dysfunction is Washington is exactly what I came here to fight against.”

The House was to begin its August district work period late today. But that was pushed back to tomorrow when House leaders first scheduled a vote on a border bill today, then canceled it, then rescheduled it for tomorrow.

Tomorrow morning, staff members for Barber and Carney will meet with ranchers and other border-area stakeholders in Douglas before departing for an extensive tour of the border area. They then will return to Tucson for a briefing with Jeffrey D. Self, commander of the Customs and Border Protection’s Arizona Joint Field Command.

The tour will go on with Maricela Solis, district director for Barber, and a policy adviser for Carney.

Carney is the co-chair and Barber is a member of a bipartisan policy group that has 20 House members — an equal number of Democrats and Republicans — who are working on bipartisan solutions to a number of national issues including border security.

“I’ve said from day one that we need real solutions to the security and humanitarian crisis on the border.” Barber said. “I have joined with my Republican and Democratic colleagues to tackle this crisis head-on, create a practical strategy for securing our border, and ensure Arizona is not left saddled with the bill.

“Those are the bipartisan solutions that Arizona and our country need and what I will continue to fight for.” Barber added. “I am outraged that Congress has so far been unable to address this crisis in a real way.”

Since he took office more than two years ago, Barber has been focused on improving border security and working with ranchers and others who make a living along the border.

Earlier this month, Barber talked with the people he works for — including those who live and work on the border, border agents who patrol the border with Mexico and mayors in Southern Arizona — before writing to the president about the surge in unaccompanied children and others entering the United States illegally.

Barber told the president that the Tucson Sector of the Border Patrol should receive a sizeable amount of emergency funding. The sector accounts for 13 percent of the border — but Barber noted that in fiscal year 2013, the Tucson Sector had 28 percent of the nation’s apprehensions of illegal immigrants and 49 percent of all drug seizures made by the Border Patrol.

Earlier this week, the United States Customs and Border Protection Authorization Act passed the House by voice vote. It included an amendment added by Barber, a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency.

Barber’s amendment requires the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to develop and implement specific metrics for measuring border security within six months of passage of the law.

Earlier this month, Barber cosponsored the Helping Unaccompanied Minors and Alleviating National Emergency (HUMANE) Act. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat, and Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican. The legislation revises the Immigration and Nationality Act to establish an expedited screening process for unaccompanied children.

The bill also addresses Barber’s biggest concern about securing our border by including The Border Security Results Act, which Barber cosponsored in 2013. That legislation requires the secretary of Homeland Security to develop a strategy for gaining “operational control” of the international border and specific measurements for defining border security.

“Real solutions to our border security crisis means bringing resources and agents directly to the border to ensure Southern Arizonans are safe on their land and in their homes,” Barber said. “It also means agent pay reform, which will increases agent hours on the job, while saving taxpayer dollars.”

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