TOPICS > Politics > THE MORNING LINE

Obama meets with Central American leaders on border crisis while Congress dithers

BY Domenico Montanaro, Terence Burlij, Rachel Wellford and Simone Pathe  July 25, 2014 at 9:09 AM EST
U.S. Border Patrol agents escort unaccompanied minors and immigrant families from El Salvador after they crossed the Rio Grande illegally into the U.S. Thursday in Mission, Texas. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

U.S. Border Patrol agents escort unaccompanied minors and immigrant families from El Salvador after they crossed the Rio Grande illegally into the U.S. Thursday in Mission, Texas. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Border crisis in focus again
  • But solutions are stuck in Congress
  • House committee passes anti-Obama lawsuit; Democrats aim to use it politically
  • Ryan, Rubio try to strike sympathetic tones on poverty

Obama meets with Central American leaders: Fresh off his three-day West Coast fundraising swing, President Barack Obama will host a meeting at the White House Friday at 2 p.m. ET with the leaders of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador as the administration looks to stem the flow of undocumented migrants from Central America to the U.S. There will just be a photo-op and not lengthy remarks or Q&A. The discussion, which will include Vice President Joe Biden, comes as lawmakers on Capitol Hill remain deadlocked on an emergency spending measure to increase resources aimed at addressing the border crisis. The president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, said in an interview with the Washington Post that the U.S. “has enormous responsibility” for the situation at the border. The New York Times reported Thursday the administration is considering a proposal that would allow hundreds of children and young adults from Honduras to enter the U.S. “as refugees or on emergency humanitarian grounds.” The president of Guatemala, Otto Perez Molina, told the Post that the U.S. should provide at least $2 billion in aid to Central American countries in order “to attack the root of the problem.” He added that allocating the funds in that fashion “would be much more profitable than investing it on border security or border control with Mexico.”

Border bills stuck in Congress: While the president tries to look like he’s dealing with the border crisis from a head-of-state standpoint, Congress still can’t seem to get out of its own way once again. The deeply divided body can’t quite figure out what to do about it. Both parties have knocked down the amount of money the president has requested by billions. Neither side and neither chamber has passed anything with just a week to go before lawmakers take off for the month of August. The sticking point remains what to do about the 2008 child-trafficking law. Republicans want to amend it, Democrats do not. Republicans, like House Speaker John Boehner, also have insisted on sending the National Guard to the border. Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry, in fact, has mobilized 1,000 of them to the border. But NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown interviewed Shawn Moran, the head of the National Border Patrol Council, which is the border patrol agents’ union, on Thursday night’s program, and he said he had “serious concerns” about any National Guard deployment. He harkened back to an operation under President George W. Bush, in which, he said, Border Patrol agents would have to sit “right next to” and “protect” the guardsmen because they were unarmed and untrained to deal with border problems. “So we never really saw the manpower gains that we were told,” Moran said. “It seemed to be more window dressing than anything.” The border issue is just one still left on the table before Congress departs. There’s also VA reform, and, yes, the highway bill, which not everyone is happy with. The Senate could take up the short-term highway funding measure passed by the House as early as Wednesday.

It’s getting hot in here: On that summer recess, expect Democrats to hammer Republicans on their lawsuit against President Obama, which passed the GOP-controlled House Rules Committee Thursday in a partisan 7-4 vote. It could be brought to the floor and pass the full House in a party-line vote next week. “We’re going to make August very hot,” Steve Israel, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, responsible for electing Democrats to the House, told Greg Sargent. Of course, this is less about taking back the House than affecting the overall national landscape and the GOP brand. Democrats are playing on difficult terrain to pick up the seats needed to take back the House. But President Obama and the White House have leaned into the GOP lawsuit. Last month, he mocked the lawsuit. “I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something while they’re doing nothing,” Obama said, adding, “The suit is a stunt.” There is a big enough — potentially loud enough — faction within the House GOP conference that this lawsuit was one way for Boehner to attempt to mollify them and quiet talk of impeachment attempts against the president — something Boehner would likely see as really having a potential boomerang effect on the party.

Ryan, other Republicans, continue to try and re-shape GOP image: House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan unveiled a sweeping proposal Thursday that would consolidate 11 federal anti-poverty programs into an “Opportunity Grant,” to be given to states, part of a renewed push by some Republican lawmakers to soften their message on economic inequality ahead of this fall’s midterms and, more importantly, 2016. Just look at who’s making the pitches: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio called for help for single parents at Catholic University this week, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul heads to the National Urban League Friday. This Ryan proposal is different from his previous ones, because it does not set out to cut social welfare spending. It maintains the current $800 billion spending levels on programs like food stamps and housing assistance. In other words, there are no safety net cuts this time. The “reform” part of it is that it vests more power with the states to decide how they would spend the money. The federal government, Ryan said during the plan’s unveiling at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank, would take on the role of “rear guard.” Although, Washington would still have to approve those spending plans. As The New York Times’ Neil Irwin writes, this is still, at its heart, a conservative proposal; Ryan proposes paying for an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit, which the White House and Democrats have also supported, by cutting the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program and the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. But in a sign of just how different the tone of this pilot program is from Ryan’s previous flirtations with anti-poverty reform, House Democrats aimed their fire not completely at the policy details, but at Ryan’s credibility on the issue. “How do you seriously say you care about anti-poverty when you’ve spent the last several years cutting the safety net?” asked Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern. But it’s another attempt from a potential 2016 presidential candidate to change the perception of the party.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1998, President Clinton was subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury regarding the Monica Lewinsky case. Who subpoenaed the president? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Stanford (@dstan3) for guessing Thursday’s trivia: What was President Van Buren’s first language? The answer was: Dutch.

LINE ITEMS

  • While Montana Sen. John Walsh got the backing of the Montana Democratic Party to stay in the race, the U.S. Army War College said Thursday that they would be investigating the allegations that he plagiarized portions of his master’s thesis.

  • Senate Minority Leader McConnell wants funding for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system to be included in the immigration bill.

  • The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Friday to examine the political activities of the White House’s Office of Political Strategy and Outreach. Chairman Darrell Issa has agreed that the office’s executive director David Simas can testify in a deposition, instead of during the hearing. On Thursday, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel says the Obama administration has not violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits most employees in the executive branch from engaging in partisan political activity.

  • The 26 members of the Texas congressional delegation wrote a letter to Mr. Obama outlining their priorities for solving the border crisis and more strictly enforcing immigration law.

  • Republicans, and now the White House, seem interested in sending National Guard troops to the border, but there’s no agreement on what power they’d have once they got there.

  • Arizona Sen. John McCain called the botched Arizona execution earlier this week “torture” and “terrible” and “not an acceptable way of carrying” out the death penalty.

  • The transcript of the execution provides a glimpse into lawyers’ concerns and their efforts to get the U.S. District judge to halt the procedure when it wasn’t working.

  • How can you learn to talk about abortion? Attend a boot camp hosted by the anti-abortion group, Susan B. Anthony List.

  • Mr. Obama appears to be the financial saving grace for the Democratic National Committee, after his fundraising appearances helped reduce their debt by 80 percent from the start of 2014.

  • Responding to criticism for saying it’s not his responsibility to create jobs in Kentucky, Sen. Mitch McConnell touts his ability to save jobs in a new ad.

  • The super PAC Alaska’s Energy/America’s Values is out with an ad supporting Republican Senate candidate for Alaska Dan Sullivan, in which an Anchorage woman says, “he kind of reminds me of Ted Stevens.”

  • Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running for his old seat, released a new ad criticizing current Gov. Rick Scott for cutting the state’s education budget.

  • Maine Gov. Paul LePage wants to reinstate work requirements for food stamp recipients, as part of his push to get residents to be less reliant on welfare.

  • Americans dislike Congress, but they have much less negative views of their own representatives, according to a Pew Research Center poll.

  • Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss is taking one last jaunt to Europe on the taxpayers’ dime before he retires.

  • Vice President Joe Biden says, “I should have had one Republican kid to go out and make me money” during a speech at the National Urban League Thursday.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

TOP TWEETS

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: