Divided House abandons vote on border bill
The Capitol is seen early Monday as Congress returns to work following the Independence Day recess, in Washington, July 8, 2013. Republicans and Democrats face potentially incendiary fights over nominations, unresolved disputes over student loans and the farm bill, and the uncertainty of whether lawmakers have the political will to rewrite the nation's immigration laws. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Bill Lambert holds a sign as he joins demonstrators outside the Mexican Consulate on Friday, July 18, 2014, in Houston. The sharp contrast in how Americans are reacting to the immigrant influx mirrors the divisiveness seen in Congress as the nationâs leaders attempt to find solutions to an issue that could worsen in the coming months. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Calif. leaves House Speaker John Boehner's office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 11, 2014, the day after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va., was defeated in the Virginia primary at the hands of a tea party challenger, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, June 11, 2014. McCarthy, the third-ranking GOP leader, informed fellow Republicans he intended to run to succeed Cantor, officials said. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
FILE - This July 23, 2013 file photo shows Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif. on Capitol Hill in Washington. House Republicans are pushing a plan to give young immigrants brought to the country illegally by their parents a path to resident status if they join the U.S. military. Denham said Friday he would press for a vote on his legislation either as a free-standing bill or as an addition to the defense authorization measure that the House will consider in May. Denham immediately faced conservative opposition. Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama circulated a letter among his colleagues opposing any attempt to add immigration legislation to the defense bill. His intent was to collect as many signatures as possible and deliver the letter to House leadership. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
UNITED STATES - JULY 28: Immigration reform protesters with United We Dream chant in front of the White House to illustrate the stories of immigrant families on Monday July 28, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 29: Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., speaks during the news conference on 'the urgent need to act on the president's supplemental funding request and immigration reform before the August recess' on Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
By ERICA WERNER
WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republicans abruptly abandoned a bill to address the immigration crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border Thursday after last-minute maneuvering failed to lock down sufficient conservative support.
The surprise move, coming on Congress' final day of action ahead of a five-week summer recess, was an embarrassing setback for Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team as a small group of tea party lawmakers once again upset their plans.
It was also a disappointment for the majority of House Republicans who were eager to produce a legislative solution to the situation on the border, where tens of thousands of unaccompanied children have been showing up from chaotic Central American nations and crossing illegally into the United States.
"It can't wait, it's a humanitarian crisis," Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said before the vote was canceled, as he pleaded with fellow Republicans to support the legislation. "This bill is an urgently needed bill."
But even significant concessions by leadership weren't enough to secure support from a small band of tea party lawmakers reluctant to give money to President Barack Obama without taking steps to rein in his executive authority on immigration.
Those lawmakers were goaded on by firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who summoned them for pizza Wednesday evening to strategize against the bill.
Faced with weak conservative support for the $659 million border bill, GOP leaders agreed late Wednesday to schedule a second vote on legislation to block Obama from extending deportation relief to more immigrants here illegally, beyond the 500,000 that have already benefited from a program he created.
That seemed to win over some lawmakers by Thursday morning, but as the day progressed conservative lawmakers and outside groups declared the measure insufficient.
Then, just before the vote on the border bill was to begin, there was an unexplained pause in action on the House floor, and suddenly the reading clerk called up an unrelated highway bill instead.
Minutes later, the border bill disappeared from the House schedule for the day, and Boehner and other House leaders issued a statement saying: "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. ... We will continue to work on solutions to the border crisis and other challenges facing our country."