Not even a week after it was offered, President Obama’s $3.7 billion plan to deal with the growing crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border appears all but dead, with Republican lawmakers Sunday decrying the administration’s “blank check” proposal and instead calling for a more targeted response centered on greater border security.
Even Texas Gov. Rick Perry, personally recruited by the president to persuade Republicans to support the measure, threw cold water on the idea. He said the president doesn’t need that much money and instead should send National Guard troops to secure the border.
The apparent defeat caps a whirlwind several days for the White House, which responded to increasing calls for action — and criticism of Mr. Obama for his decision not to visit the border while fundraising in Texas last week — by seeking more spending.
Republican leaders such as Mr. Perry also have put the request into a larger context, noting that Mr. Obama allowed the problem to worsen over the past five years, then responded to public pressure by demanding that Congress pass his supplemental spending plan immediately.
“It is a very large amount of money, and as you analyze it, very little of it is for border security. And I think until he gets realistic about the problem and how you deal with the problem — and it is a border security issue. And we’ve got a track record now of five-plus years of him disregarding what’s going on on the border,” Mr. Perry said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“So here’s his opportunity to truly lead. Don’t blame this on anyone. Be a leader. Lay out a plan. And I will suggest to you, actually, the president doesn’t have to have this big amount of money,” the Texan said.
After meeting with Mr. Perry last week, the president personally pitched the $3.7 billion plan during a hastily arranged press conference in Dallas.
The money would be used for detaining and deporting illegal immigrant families, transporting unaccompanied children back to their home countries, greater law enforcement, housing services for children, the hiring of more immigration judges and other purposes.
In his plea, Mr. Obama suggested that the only reason for Republican opposition would be politics.
“Are folks more interested in politics or are they more interested in solving the problem? If they’re interested in solving the problem, then this can be solved. If the preference is for politics, then it won’t be solved,” he said. “This is just a very narrow issue, the supplemental, in terms of dealing with the particular problem we have right now.”
Meanwhile, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell met with dozens of governors Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee, as the administration seeks locations to host thousands of Central American children who have come to the U.S. over the past year.
Unaccompanied children from countries other than Mexico are turned over to HHS within 72 hours after U.S. authorities take them into custody.
Governors from both parties have raised serious concerns about hosting those children in their states.
“Our citizens already feel burdened by all kinds of challenges. They don’t want to see another burden come into their state,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat. “However we deal with the humanitarian aspects of this, we’ve got to do it in the most cost-effective way possible.”
While the administration looks for support from governors, backing for the supplemental spending plan on Capitol Hill is evaporating.
“Our view, I think, as House Republicans, is, look, we’re not going to write a blank check,” said Rep. Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “It’s going to be a more targeted approach, probably through the end of the fiscal year.”
Mr. McCaul also appeared on “Fox News Sunday.”
House Republicans, led by Speaker John A. Boehner, also have called for National Guard troops to patrol the border. Mr. Perry echoed those sentiments Sunday, saying such a step would act as an effective deterrent.
Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, also said Mr. Obama, whom Republicans often have criticized in recent months for unilateral use of executive authority, already has the power to send these children home.
Mr. Obama “has tools in his toolbox” and “can safely get them home” to Central America “and that’s where the president needs to start,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The White House has rejected the National Guard idea, and congressional Democrats are growing increasingly frustrated with the Republican focus on border security.
“We spend $18 billion a year on making sure that the federal government has immigration enforcement agents. That’s more than the DEA, the ATF and the FBI and all other enforcement combined. But we still have a problem, right?” Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat, said during an appearance Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
“So you can keep throwing money and talk about enforcement, enforcement, enforcement, but you’ve got to put money also into your judicial system, and you’ve got to put money and a comprehensive program that deals with the issue,” he said.