Border funding bill loses steam in Congress

WASHINGTON —The White House request in July for $3.7 billion in emergency spending to deal with a surge of undocumented minors has fallen to the wayside and may not get a vote at all as lawmakers return to Capitol Hill for a three-week legislative sprint before Election Day.

Aides to House and Senate leaders and the Appropriations committees said the number of undocumented minors at the border has been dropping and existing funds are likely to cover the immediate needs. The aides spoke on background because negotiations are ongoing.

The number of immigrant children caught along the U.S.-Mexico border continued to decline in August, according to the latest figures disclosed Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security. Border Patrol agents apprehended 3,129 children in August, mostly from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. In July agents apprehended 5,400 children, while in June the number was over 10,600.

The administration continues to seek to address border issues, however, in the short-term funding bill Congress must pass by Sept. 30 to keep the government running. The congressional aides said the White House has submitted requests for "anomalies," which are provisions to address specific program needs, though they would not disclose details.

President Obama last week indicated there is still a need for more immigration judges. "It would have been helped along if Congress had voted for the supplemental that I asked for; they did not," Obama told reporters last week. "That means we've got to make some administrative choices and executive choices about, for example, getting more immigration judges down there."

The House passed a $659 million emergency spending bill before adjourning for the August break, and the Senate tried and failed to approve a competing $2.7 billion measure. The two chambers could not reach an agreement, and Republicans remain skeptical that an emergency bill is necessary, arguing funding needs could be addressed in the annual spending bill process.


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