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House GOP Counters Obama's Request By Promising Own Proposal


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Robert Siegel. It's a familiar dance in Washington - President Obama makes a request to Congress and the House says no. This time, the no is in response to the $3.7 billion dollars the president requested to respond to an influx of unaccompanied immigrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border.

House Republicans say they won't grant anywhere near that amount. And instead, they're crafting a package of their own proposals to hasten deportations from countries other than Mexico and Canada. And while Congress and the White House wrangle over how to address the border crisis, NPR's Ailsa Chang reports the clock is ticking.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: Congress has exactly two weeks and two days to get its act together before it leaves town for its long August recess. And if it doesn't grant supplemental money before then for the border situation, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says expect the worst. Here was the parade of horribles he painted for the Senate Appropriations Committee last week for two arms of his department - Immigration Customs and Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.


JEH JOHNSON: At the current burn rate, ICE is going to run out of money in mid-August, and we project that CBP is going to run out of money in mid-September. If there is no supplemental, we're going to have to go to some very dramatic, harsh form of reprogramming, which I'm sure the committee is familiar with, away from some vital Homeland Security programs that I'm sure members of this committee care a lot of about.

CHANG: In other words, the money's going to come out of somewhere, whether or not Congress decides to grant President Obama's full request for 3.7 billion dollars now. But House Republicans are unimpressed. Appropriations chair Hal Rogers says a lot of the money can wait until the new fiscal year that starts on October 1.


CONGRESSMAN HAL ROGERS: We're searching through the request to find those items which are necessary to do now. And obviously not all of that request needs to be done now. Some of it can be done in the regular process.

CHANG: The problem for the White House is not all of what they're calling a crisis now seems like a crisis to Republicans. Matt Salmon of Arizona is part of a House Republican working group examining the border problem. And he says too much of the president's request assumes the U.S. needs to house these children instead of deport them.


CONGRESSMAN MATT SALMON: Much of it would be redundant if we're able to get those children back to their countries as quickly as possible. He is foreseeing, you know, having these children, you know, cared for by HHS for months at a time while they wait for these hearings.

CHANG: So Salmon and his group want to amend a 2008 law that now makes it harder to deport children from countries that don't border the U.S. He says the Central American countries, where most of these children have come from, are on board with that. His group just returned from a trip to Honduras and Guatemala this past weekend.


SALMON: The presidents of both countries - I met with them - our group met with them. They want their children black. They're saying please send our children back. We want them.

CHANG: The group is hoping to send arrivals back as quickly as five days. They agree there needs to be more immigration judges, but they hope to bring in retired judges temporarily rather than hire new permanent ones. And they want tougher border security. Kay Granger of Texas is the leader of the group and says that includes bringing in the National Guard.


KAY GRANGER: We've got border patrol people trying to do a good job, but they're so overwhelmed with the number of people coming across that they're taking care of children and filling out forms. And so we need National Guard to add more bodies to what's happening at the border.

CHANG: Meanwhile, about 40 women and children at the U.S. border were just flown home to Honduras yesterday. White House officials say that's the first batch of many more to follow. Ailsa Chang, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.