TIME Congress

Senate GOP Blocks Bill on Contraception Coverage

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans have blocked a bill aimed at restoring free contraception for women who get their health insurance from companies that object on religious grounds.

The vote on Wednesday was 56-43 to move ahead on the measure, short of the 60 votes necessary to proceed.

Democrats sponsored the election-year bill to reverse last month’s Supreme Court ruling that closely held businesses with religious objections could deny coverage under President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Republicans called the bill a political stunt aimed at helping vulnerable Democratic incumbents in the midterm elections.

Democrats appealed to female voters, critical to their hopes of holding onto their Senate majority, in arguing for the measure.

TIME Congress

House Passes Highway Bill As Deadline Looms

WASHINGTON (AP) — With an August deadline looming, the House voted Tuesday to temporarily patch over a multibillion-dollar pothole in federal highway and transit programs while ducking the issue of how to put them on a sound financial footing for the long term.

The action cobbles together $10.8 billion by using pension tax changes, customs fees and money from a fund to repair leaking underground fuel storage tanks to keep the federal Highway Trust Fund, which pays for transportation programs nationwide, solvent through May 2015. The vote was 367 to 55. A similar bill is pending in the Senate.

Without congressional action, the Transportation Department says that by the first week in August the fund will no longer have enough money to cover promised aid to states, and the government will begin to stretch out payments. Congress has kept the highway trust fund teetering on the edge of bankruptcy since 2008 through a series of temporary fixes because lawmakers have been unable to find a politically acceptable long-term funding plan.

The most obvious solution would be to raise the federal 18. 4 cents a gallon gasoline and 24.4 cents a gallon diesel tax, which haven’t been increased in over 20 years. But lawmakers are reluctant to raise taxes in an election year — especially Republicans for whom a vote in favor of any tax increase could trigger a backlash from their party’s base.

As a result, Congress has had to look elsewhere for transportation money while not increasing the federal deficit. The bill by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., relies on tax changes that are forecast to generate revenue over 10 years, but provide only enough money to keep the highway and transit programs going for another 10 months.

The largest chunk of the money, $6.4 billion, results from allowing employers to defer payments to their employee pension plans. Funding pension plans normally results in a tax savings for companies, and deferring those payments means they will pay more in taxes and increase federal revenue. But several lawmakers suggested the revenue from the pension changes is illusory.

“Come on, really, it’s pretty phony stuff,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. “Let’s get real about how we’re going to fund our transportation” programs.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, defended the bill while acknowledging its limits. “Listen, these are difficult decisions in difficult times in an election year,” he said. “The long-term problem is still there and needs to be addressed.”

President Barack Obama, touring a transportation research center in Virginia, said he supports the House and Senate bills to keep aid flowing to states, but wants more.

“All this does is set us up for the same crisis a few months from now. So Congress shouldn’t pat itself on the back for averting disaster for a few months,” he said. Earlier this year, Obama offered a $302 billion plan to increase transportation spending and keep programs going for another four years. The plan, which was paid for by closing business tax loopholes, was received coolly by Republicans.

Democrats and some Republicans complained that it won’t be any easier under the GOP bill to reach a compromise on sustainable, long-term means to pay for programs by pushing off a decision until next year when the presidential campaign is heating up. Republicans, however, may be in a better position to shape a transportation bill to their liking next year if they re-take control of the Senate in this fall’s midterm elections.

Republicans are divided over transportation policy. A significant minority of the party’s more conservative House members want to slash federal gas and diesel taxes, dramatically scale back transportation aid and leave it to states to come up with the money to pay for roads, bridges, buses and trains.

The conservative Club for Growth and Heritage Action for America, which are influential with Tea Party Republicans, urged lawmakers to vote against the Camp bill. But as a sop to conservatives, House GOP leaders allowed an amendment by Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., that says Congress should “increase the authority and responsibility of the states” to fund and manage their transportation systems.

But Democrats said greater federal spending is needed to repair and replace the nation’s aging infrastructure, meet the needs of a growing population and keep pace with other nations like China which are spending a greater share of their economies on transportation than the U.S.

States have been told to expect an average 28 percent reduction in aid if Congress doesn’t act. The fund is expected to reach a zero balance by the end of August. Some states already have begun to delay or cancel construction projects due to the uncertainty of federal money.

The House defeated along party lines a motion by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., that would reduce the money in the bill to about $8 billion — just enough to pay for highway and transit aid through Dec. 31 — in the hope that another quick deadline would force Congress to come to an agreement on a long-term funding plan this year.

TIME Congress

Compromise Disrupts the Daily Vitriol in Washington, D.C.

Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner (C) reacts after signing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act with (from left to right) Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Congressman George Miller, Republican Congressman John Kline, Republican Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, and Democratic Congressman Ruben Hinojosa in the Speaker's Conference Room in the US Capitol in Washington on July 11, 2014.
Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner (C) reacts after signing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act with (from left to right) Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Congressman George Miller, Republican Congressman John Kline, Republican Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, and Democratic Congressman Ruben Hinojosa in the Speaker's Conference Room in the US Capitol in Washington on July 11, 2014. Jim Lo Scalzo—EPA

The political war of words hasn't stopped, but Republicans and Democrats are proving they can still get stuff done together

The rhetoric in Washington Tuesday was as poisonous as ever, with President Barack Obama lashing out again at House Republicans and Speaker John Boehner returning the favor. “The American people have to demand that folks in Washington do their job, do something,” Obama said, in an attack. “Giving speeches about a long-term highway bill, it’s frankly just more rhetoric,” Boehner responded in kind.

But under the hood, things did not look quite so dire. With little fanfare, the tiny sounds of compromise on infrastructure funding and immigration policy echoed through the marbled halls of Washington. House Republican leadership decided to break with their conservative flank to support a ten-month highway funding bill that the White House endorsed. Then House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said Democrats would also support the measure, just a week after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi criticized it.

Meanwhile, House and Senate Republicans found themselves echoing the rhetoric of the White House as they push for a legal change that will allow for the quicker deportation of Central American children who cross the border illegally, a move that has infuriated liberals. “This would be done in a humane and responsible way,” said a Republican aide close to the House working group working on immigration, echoing the White House talking points on the proposal.

Despite the hesitant cooperation, both sides tried to use the potential for agreement as a way score political points. “Breaking news,” White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said, dryly after he was asked about the transportation deal. “Maybe the presidential rhetoric is having an effect.” Republicans, similarly, tried to cast the fleeting agreement as a victory. “The point is there are ways to get things done—they rarely included campaign speeches by the President,” said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

To be sure, many areas of disagreement remain, and the limited cooperation with 10 legislative days before Labor Day is more a function of clearing the docket of urgent business before the long midterm-election-year recess than a genuine breakthrough. The GOP remains divided over the $3.7 billion budget request from the White House to deal with the border fix, and there is no sign of a larger deal on immigration reform. The historic standoff over deficit spending levels remains unresolved. And in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid has rejected proposal by Republican Whip John Cornyn to change deportation process for Central American minors.

But the week’s work proves that even in a city riven by division and broken trust, work still gets done on occasion, even if neither party shows any interest in ending the daily onslaught of recriminations over the coming months. “Now that President Obama has endorsed the House highway bill, we hope he will urge Senate Democrats to pass some of the nearly 50 House-passed jobs bills still awaiting action,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker of the House John Boehner. “The American people are still asking, where are the jobs? And it’s time for the president to fight the Senate gridlock from his own political party.”

At the White House, Earnest said the temporary bipartisanship wouldn’t change the president’s summer plans to continue on offense. “Republicans have put their political ambitions ahead of the interests of middle-class families so many times, but like I said, I’m willing to give credit where it’s due,” he said of the highway agreement. “But it’s not going to stop this administration from continuing to advocate for the kind of long-term highway reauthorization that’s in the best interests of the American economy.”

Additional reporting by Alex Rogers/Washington

TIME Congress

The Tricky Gimmick Congress Will Use to Fund Your Highways

Congress pays for a 10 month fix now by threatening greater deficits later.

On Monday night the White House endorsed the House Republicans’ plan to keep the Highway Trust Fund—which finances highways, roads and bridges—alive for the next 10 months, saving about 700,000 jobs. While the bill will bring the Transportation Department program back from the brink of a crisis, it uses an accounting trick known as “pension smoothing” to pay for it. Here’s a guide on why the short-term revenue raiser is no good for the long haul.

What is pension smoothing and why should I care about it?

Pension smoothing raises money for the government in the short term in exchange for increasing the debt over the long term. By reducing pension contribution requirements, pension smoothing temporarily increases companies’ taxable income to raise revenue for the government. But over the long-term, companies will be on the hook to contribute more to their pension funds, lowering tax revenue. Some conservatives, including fellows at the Heritage Foundation and Keith Hennessy, a senior White House economic advisor under President George W. Bush, have warned that pension smoothing increases the risk of a taxpayer funded bailout of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the government insurance company that protects pensioners from risk in their private plans.

Does anyone like it?

Congress in the past has turned to the tactic in dire situations (see next question) because it is pro-employer and a revenue raiser in the short-term. Since the Congressional Budget Office scores bills in 10-year windows, supporters of the House and Senate bills to save the Highway Trust Fund can avoid questions about raising deficits in the long-term.

It’s no one’s ideal revenue raiser. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the Finance Committee, told TIME last week he’s “not real happy about pension smoothing,” but still “dedicated” to passing this year’s fix. On Tuesday, reporters asked House Speaker Boehner at a press conference why he would support pension smoothing, which Republicans decried earlier this year as a gimmick when Democrats wanted to use it to fund an emergency unemployment insurance extension.

“These are difficult decisions in difficult times in an election year,” said Boehner. “It is a solid piece of legislation that will solve the problem in the short-term. The long-term problem is still there and needs to be addressed.”

Several outside think tanks and media organizations have announced their opposition to pension smoothing, including the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the editorial board of the Washington Post, the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Has pension smoothing been used before?

In 2012, Congress first turned to the revenue-raising gimmick to fill another transportation funding shortfall. Last year, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) included it as part of a failed proposal to repeal an Obamacare provision and end the government shutdown. Earlier this year, Senate Democrats and a handful of Republicans tried to use it to extend unemployment insurance. Now it will be used to save the Highway Trust Fund from insolvency.

What are the alternatives?

A month ago, Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) introduced a bill to raise the federal gas tax (currently around 18 cents a gallon), which hasn’t been changed since 1993 and is the main source of financing the Highway Trust Fund. The Corker-Murphy bill would address the cash-strapped program by increasing the tax by 6 cents in each of the next two years and then index the rate to inflation. Besides the Corker-Murphy bill, Congress could tax drivers on how many miles they drive and communities could set up more tollbooths. Other potential long-term solutions are in the works but unlikely to pass this year.

TIME Immigration

Governors Divided on How to Handle Border Crisis

Scott Walker
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks during a meeting on jobs and education at the National Governors Association convention, July 12, 2014, in Nashville. Mark Humphrey—AP

As Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell briefed governors on the situation at the National Governors Association meeting Sunday morning

The nation’s governors appeared united that Washington needs to act to deal with the surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border illegally at a gathering of state chief executives over the weekend, but showed little consensus over what Washington should actually do to mitigate the situation.

The border crisis was front-and-center at the National Governors Association (NGA) meeting in Nashville, where Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell briefed governors on the situation Sunday morning, especially for those governors from states that have been asked to house the children in temporary shelters.

Throughout the weekend the governors expressed frustration over a lack of communication from Washington, worried about both the humanitarian situation and the potential costs to their states.

“It almost brings me to tears thinking about these children,” said Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker. “You think of the trauma these kids are going through to get here, and you think of the trauma before that. I put them on my own personal prayer list.”

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, said Friday, “I can only imagine, as a father of four, the heartbreak that those parents must have felt in sending their children across a desert where they can be muled and trafficked or used or killed or tortured.”

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, a Republican, raised public-health and security concerns, asking about the risk to American citizens, saying there have been cases of chicken pox, scabies and lice at Fort Sill, the army post where over 1,100 unaccompanied minors are being housed in her state.

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, a Republican, praised Burwell after the closed-press meeting. “We don’t know what the cost to the states are going to be,” he said. “The bottom line for me was for there to be an open line of communication with the secretary on that issue. And she’s assured me and all the governors that she will ensure that we’re very well aware of what is going on with respect to states.”

Multiple governors described the meeting as “frank,” with Burwell challenged on the Administration’s handling of the issue. Sandoval said it was too early to say whether governors are buying in to the Administration’s proposed response.

But the evidence on display elsewhere at the NGA meeting suggested the governors are as deeply divided over the solution as policymakers in the nation’s capital. “I think Congress needs to act, and I think the President needs to go down there and see it for himself like I did,” Fallon said.

“Go down there,” echoed Utah Governor Gary Herbert, also a Republican. “Grab both sides of the issue and say we will solve this. We need to me more leadership out of the White House and we need to see more collaboration in Congress.”

The number of unaccompanied child migrants attempting to cross the border has surged in recent months, mainly from Central America. U.S. Customs and Border Protection says the number detained has risen by 92% from July last year. Last week, President Barack Obama requested $3.7 billion to ease the humanitarian crisis and increase border security, as the federal government is looking to move thousands of unaccompanied minors to temporary detention facilities in states away from the border.

On Sunday, Texas Governor Rick Perry, who was not at the governors’ conference, said he does not support the President’s request. “As I look at that piece of legislation, it is a very large amount of money, and as you analyze it, very little of it is for border security,” the Republican said on Fox News Sunday.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who famously clashed with Obama at the Phoenix airport over immigration policy in 2012, said the children must be sent back. “They should be sent home,” she said. “They are illegal. We have borders for a reason. And I’ll say it again, you know, a country without borders is like a house without walls — it collapses. We are a nation of laws. We believe in the rule of law.”

“People — our citizens already feel burdened by all kinds of challenges,” said Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat. “They don’t want to see another burden coming into their state. So however we deal with the humanitarian aspects of this, we’ve got to do it in the most cost-effective way possible.”

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy called on the federal government to do more to solve the instability in Central America that is causing the influx of migrant children. But the Democrat emphasized the importance of increasing border security, saying that Washington must act “in the most human way possible, but respecting our laws.”

“There’s a paucity of suggestions on how to deal with this from Republicans, other than to point fingers,” he added.

O’Malley, who is preparing to run for President in 2016, broke publicly with Obama on Saturday, saying the children should be allowed to stay.

“It is contrary to everything we stand for to try to summarily send children back to death,” the Democratic lawmaker told reporters. He also criticized the “kennels” in which those who have been detained are being kept and called for the children to be placed in “the least restrictive” locations, including foster homes or with family members in the U.S.

Walker, who is similarly mulling a presidential bid on the GOP side, said the federal government needs to be careful where it releases the children. “If they go with people without legal status, our concern is that these children will just suddenly be gone and we’re not going to see them and that’ll just encourage more kids to come,” he said.

TIME Congress

Boehner: House Will Sue President Over Obamacare Employer Mandate

Speaker of the House John Boehner speaks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) speaks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 10, 2014. Joshua Roberts—Reuters

House Speaker John Boehner says says the suit is based on the fact that Obama revised the Affordable Care Act mandate without approval from Congress

House Speaker John Boehner announced Thursday that the chamber will sue President Barack Obama for delaying the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate last year.

The decision gave companies with at least 50 full-time employees an extra year to provide health insurance or face a fine. Earlier this year, the Administration delayed the mandate until 2016 for companies employing between 50 and 99 workers.

“Today we’re releasing a draft resolution that will authorize the House to file suit over the way President Obama unilaterally changed the employer mandate,” wrote Boehner in a public statement. “In 2013, the president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it. That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work. No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own.”

Democrats immediately ridiculed the measure as a political stunt.

“Instead of working to create jobs, instead of working to strengthen the middle class or addressing any of the urgent issues facing our nation, Republicans are wasting taxpayer dollars on another toxic partisan stunt,” wrote Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, in a public statement. “This lawsuit is just another distraction from House Republicans desperate to distract the American people from their own spectacular obstruction and dysfunction.”

TIME Congress

Congress Gears Up for Highway Funding Fight

Vice President Joe Biden speaks to government and business officials about transportation infrastructure and the Highway Trust Fund at a meeting hosted by the White House Business Council, Wednesday, July 9, 2014, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington.
Vice President Joe Biden speaks to government and business officials about transportation infrastructure and the Highway Trust Fund at a meeting hosted by the White House Business Council, Wednesday, July 9, 2014, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington. Charles Dharapak—AP

A split between House and Senate

Lawmakers advanced proposals Thursday to save the country’s main highway fund, but differences in plans from the House and Senate are likely to spur a congressional showdown in the coming weeks.

The Highway Trust Fund is the main source of funding for road, bridge and mass transit projects, and the Obama Administration expects it to run out of money next month. The bill approved by a House committee Thursday would raise almost $11 billion to keep the fund solvent through May 2015. It would generate the money through an accounting gimmick known as “pension smoothing”—which changes pension contributions—by extending customs fees on importers and by taking $1 billion from a fund to fix underground storage tanks.

The Senate proposal parts ways with the House’s on certain funding details. The top lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee—Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)—struck a deal Thursday that uses the same pension plan alterations and customs fee extensions as the House bill, but to a lesser extent. To make up the difference in revenue, the panel would rely on smaller measures, including a new penalty on those who do not comply with certain reporting requirements for child tax credit claims.

The Senate’s inclusion of these tax revenue boosters threatens to ignite a congressional clash over the fund. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said Thursday that he will not support “billions of dollars in higher taxes to pay for more spending” in the Senate’s bill.

“And, I certainly do not support permanent tax increases to pay for just 10 months of highway programs,” Camp said in a statement.

Republican senators decried the “pension smoothing” in the House bill.

“I think it’s ugly,” said Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a member of his chamber’s Republican leadership team.

Still, lawmakers remain committed to replenishing the fund before it’s too late. “That’s a problem for Republicans,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who sits on the Finance Committee, told TIME about the House pension changes. “But also don’t forget that you’re not going to stop highway construction.”

“I’m not real happy about pension smoothing,” Hatch told TIME. “[But] I’m dedicated to getting it done.”

TIME Congress

Boehner: Obama’s Not Getting a ‘Blank Check’ for the Border

John Boehner
U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) answers questions during his weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol July 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. Win McNamee—Getty Images

House Speaker John Boehner indicates that the House won't pass President Obama's bill to combat the border crisis

House Speaker John Boehner brushed off President’s Barack Obama’s bill to address the border crisis as a “blank check” Thursday, indicating his chamber won’t pass the legislation as written. Boehner said the House should take action on the border crisis this month, but said any concrete steps are “yet to be determined.”

Obama announced Wednesday that he would consider sending the National Guard to better secure the border — a move Boehner supports — if the President receives the $3.7 billion he requested in supplemental spending legislation. Boehner slammed that added condition as political.

“He won’t do it for the kids; it’s all about politics,” said Boehner.

Boehner and Obama, however, do agree that a 2008 bill that dictates how the government handles unaccompanied child migrants should be reformed. One provision in that law mandates that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection must hand over within 72 hours the unaccompanied minors in its custody over to the Department of Health and Human Services, which takes care of them until the immigration cases are decided. Under the law, Border Patrol agents have the authority to determine whether children from contiguous countries—Mexico and Canada—are eligible to stay in the country.

Boehner said Thursday that he supports changing the law to apply to children hailing from noncontiguous countries. More than 50,000 unaccompanied minors have been caught on the southwest border this year; most hail from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

TIME Congress

House of Representatives Closed Due to ‘Industrial Spill’

A strong storm front passes over the U.S. Capitol, July 8, 2014.
Bill Clark—CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

The House side of the building is closed

Updated at 10:00 a.m.

The House side of the U.S. Capitol was shut down early Thursday after a potential leak of asbestos, the agency responsible for the building said. The House will not gavel in at 10 a.m. as scheduled, but the chamber is expected to convene at noon for legislative business. The U.S. Capitol Police announced in a statement that a staircase and a room in the House will remain closed for further inspection.

“The East Grand Staircase on the House side of the U.S. Capitol Building from floors 1 through 3 and room H-324 will remain closed until further notice,” wrote the Capitol Police in a statement released to House staff at 9:06 a.m. “The rest of the House side of the U.S. Capitol Building will return to normal operations, including tours of the U.S. Capitol.”

According to the Architect of the Capitol, the potential leak may have occurred during asbestos abatement.

A police alert first went out around 7 a.m. Thursday, and Capitol Police Hazardous Materials Response Team is on the scene. “Samples have been collected to determine whether there was potential exposure,” said a AoC spokesperson.

The House Sergeant of Arms sent out an alert at 7.40am: “The House Side of the U.S. Capitol Building is closed until further notice due to an industrial spill. The Architect of the Capitol is continuing testing of the area. All Members and staff should avoid the area until further notice.”

—With reporting by Jay Newton-Small and Alex Rogers

 

 

TIME Immigration

Obama Urges Congress to Approve $4 Billion in Funds for Immigration Crisis

The President declined Governor Perry's request that he visit the border while in Texas: "I'm not interested in photo ops. I'm interested in solving a problem"

+ READ ARTICLE

Updated 6:29 p.m. ET on July 10

President Barack Obama called on Congress to swiftly approve nearly $4 billion in supplemental funding to deal with the influx of unaccompanied minors at the Southwest border Wednesday, saying lawmakers need to set aside politics to solve the problem.

“Are we more interested in politics, or are we more interested in solving the problem,” Obama said in statement late in the day after a meeting with Texas Governor Rick Perry and local faith leaders in Dallas to deal with the months-long crisis.

“What I emphasized to the governor is the problem here is not a major disagreement around the actions that could be helpful in dealing with the problem,” Obama said. “The challenge is: Is Congress prepared to act to put the resources in place to get this done?”

Obama described the meeting with Perry, which came about after days of partisan wrangling, as “constructive,” saying “there’s nothing that the governor indicated he’d like to see that I have a philosophical objection to.”

The President said he encouraged Perry to pressure the Texas delegation to support the supplementary request. “If the Texas delegation is prepared to move, we can get this thing done next week,” he said.

House Republicans have called on Obama to use his executive authority to take steps to deal with the surge of illegal immigrants but have not yet indicated whether they will bring the President’s request up for a vote.

Perry, meanwhile, called on Obama to immediately deploy 1,000 National Guard troops to help deal with the crisis and to personally visit the border.

“Five hundred miles south of here in the Rio Grande Valley there is a humanitarian crisis unfolding that has been created by bad public policy, in particular the failure to secure the border,” Perry said in a statement. “Securing the border is attainable, and the President needs to commit the resources necessary to get this done.”

Obama left open the possibility of sending the National Guard if it would help Republicans move on the funding request, but added that the supplemental request is a longer-term solution that should be amenable to both parties, saying the GOP needs to “rediscover the concept of negotiation and compromise.”

The President also offered his most forceful public comments of warning to parents in Central American countries ravaged by poverty and violence who might send their migrant children on the dangerous journey to the U.S.

“Their parents need to know that this is an incredibly dangerous situation and it is unlikely that their children will be able to stay,” Obama said, noting he has sent top Administration officials to Central America over the past several weeks. Vice President Joe Biden spoke Wednesday with the Presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to review efforts to dissuade parents from sending their children to the U.S.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Thursday that up to 90,000 unaccompanied child immigrants could cross the border before September, burdening immigration agencies who badly need new funding to handle the influx. Johnson cited the highest calculation of immigrant children yet when he appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday afternoon. “We are preparing for a scenario in which the number of unaccompanied children apprehended at the border could reach up to 90,000 by the end of fiscal 2014,” Johnson’s testimony reads.

Obama meanwhile defended his decision not to visit the border, saying he’s not “interested in photo ops.”

“There is nothing that is taking place down there that I am not intimately aware of and briefed on,” he said. “This is not theater. This is a problem. I’m not interested in photo ops. I’m interested in solving a problem.”

 

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser