WASHINGTON —The U.S. House approved along party lines a $694 million emergency spending bill authored by Republicans to address the ongoing immigration crisis along the southwest U.S. border.
The legislative package passed 223-189 and includes funds to boost border security, provide for more immigration judges and National Guard troops, and provide aid to house and care for the thousands of undocumented minors held at the border.
However, it faces opposition from Senate Democrats and the White House so Friday's vote was largely a political exercise to give lawmakers a vote on a controversial issue before heading home for a month-long break in an election year.
The bill's passage was a hard fought victory for GOP leaders, who faced a conservative revolt on Thursday that forced them to pull legislation from the floor and renegotiate certain terms in order to ensure the votes for passage.
It was also the first test of the new leadership line-up that includes Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., who assumed their new posts late Thursday following the resignation of Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.
The revised bill includes an additional $35 million for the National Guard and new language to clarify a provision intended to make it easier to return the undocumented minors who have surged along the U.S. southwest border since last October.
House Democrats opposed the bill, but it is the only proposal to pass a chamber of Congress since President Obama initially requested $3.7 billion to address the border crisis. Senate Democrats tried and failed Thursday to approve their competing $2.7 billion bill that included no new immigration provisions, but it could not overcome a procedural hurdle. Congress will not reconvene until Sept. 8.
"We're trying to offer a solution. It may not be the final solution," said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., noting that work will continue next month. "Sooner or later, (the Senate) will get it done, and we'll continue to work on this."
GOP leaders also agreed to toughen language in a companion bill that would restrict President Obama from renewing or expanding a 2012 program the administration implemented to defer the deportation of children brought to the USA illegally.
The measure ending Obama's deportation relief program passed 216-192, with 11 Republican "no" votes and four Democrats crossing party lines to vote in favor.
"It's dealing with the issue that the American people care about more than any other, and that is stopping the invasion of illegal foreign nationals into our country," said Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. "And we got to yes."
Obama condemned the Republican action and said he'd act unilaterally, as best he could.
"They're not even trying to solve the problem," the president said. "I'm going to have to act alone, because we do not have enough resources."
Political theater played out Friday on the House floor. House Democrats sent dozens of their lawmakers to the floor to attempt to offer the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration overhaul that includes a pathway to citizenship for the 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the USA. Their efforts were blocked by Republicans.
Democrats said GOP efforts to increase deportations and return the children home were inhumane and intolerant and their vote would come back to haunt them in future elections. "When did we lose our way? Let me be crystal clear. The changes being added to the (spending bill) will make the lives of the children worse. How we respond to children in need of safe haven speaks to the character of this nation, who we are," said Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y.
Contributing: Associated Press