Morning Action: A Surge of Illegal Minors Over Southern Border

IMMIGRATION.  Conservative lawmakers weighed in Tuesday on the surge of illegal minors coming over our southern border:

Conservative lawmakers today blamed President Obama’s policies for provoking a wave of unaccompanied immigrant children to cross the southern border into the United States. The humanitarian crisis, they said, would deter the House from pursuing “comprehensive” immigration reform similar to what the Senate passed last year.

Speaking at this month’s Conversations with Conservatives event on Capitol Hill, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) 85%, and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) 91%, argued that the White House’s lax enforcement of immigration laws encouraged Central Americans to try to escape violence and poverty.

“He picks and chooses what he wants to enforce, regardless of what we pass or don’t pass,” Salmon said of Obama. “That hardly is an incentive to want to sit down at the table and negotiate a deal on immigration reform.”

GUNS.  The Senate may resume its consideration of guns and background checks:

The 113th Congress is not done with its debate over guns and background checks.

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) 13% hinted on Tuesday that his chamber may vote on the bipartisan gun background checks bill again this year — and said such a law could have prevented a mass shooting in Las Vegas.

Asked whether that means the Senate would take back up the legislation from Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-WV) 21% and Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-PA) 59% that failed last year, Reid replied: “I wouldn’t be surprised if we have another vote on it.”

Manchin said in an interview that Reid’s message has been that if the Senate can get five more votes — enough to break a 60-vote threshold filibuster — then the chamber will take the legislation back up. But he’s not there yet.

CONTRACEPTIVE MANDATE.  The Obamacare contraceptive mandate could be targeted in a spending bill going through the Senate (sub. req’d):

The annual spending bill that funds the Health and Human Services, Labor and Education departments has long been a magnet for contentious policy riders, but a Supreme Court case could make the Obama administration’s contraception coverage rule a top target this year.

The rule, which originated with the 2010 health care law (PL 111-148PL 111-152), requires most employers to cover birth control free of charge. While a key opponent of the policy indicated that he’s waiting for a high court decision on its legality as soon as this month, some House members are pushing for a debate either way.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) 47%, who sponsored a proposal targeting the contraception requirement that stalled last Congress, said he is leaning against offering an amendment on the issue when the Labor-HHS spending bill moves through the full Appropriations Committee this week.

The Missouri Republican noted that the high court is expected to hand down a decision on the legal challenge this month, which is comprised of two cases led by the Hobby Lobby craft store chain and the Pennsylvania company Conestoga Wood Specialties.

HIGHWAY.  Lawmakers are looking at options to revive the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), including a proposal in the House to eliminate most Saturday mail delivery and use the savings to finance a one-year extension of the HTF and a proposal in the Senate to provide a six-month fix of their own (sub. req’d):

Options for an extension of the Highway Trust Fund are coming into view as Congress struggles to address a looming transportation funding crisis. Both sides of the Capitol inched closer to their own, separate proposals Tuesday even as Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx came to the Hill to tout the administration’s own $302 billion four-year surface transportation proposal.

At this point, it’s all but certain that Congress will have to settle for a short-term solution. That is sure to disappoint many Democrats, particularly Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) 5% of California, the Environment and Public Works chairwoman, who has called for a long-term extension.

But the development of rival plans also suggests that members of both parties are taking the funding shortfall seriously and are preparing plans to address the gap.

STUDENT LOANS.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) 23%‘s student loan bill (see our key vote against the bill here) is headed to the floor for a vote today (sub. req’d):

Legislation to let borrowers refinance their old federal and private student loans at today’s low rates faces a key procedural test in the Senate on Wednesday.

And the bill is almost certainly going to fall short.

Senate Republicans are banding together to oppose the measure (S 2432), which would be paid for by a tax on income over $1 million. Sixty votes are needed to invoke cloture and break a filibuster, and the 55 Democrats aren’t expected to snag enough Republicans to advance the bill.

Still, Democrats are sure to keep beating the drums on the issue in the months ahead.

UI.  Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) 55% wants President Obama to get more involved with talks to revive an unemployment insurance extension in hopes his involvement will put more pressure on Republican lawmakers (sub. req’d):

“The president needs to get more involved in this discussion right now,” Heller said Tuesday. “I know it’s important to him. . . . I do believe that if the president would be more engaged on this particular topic we could get something done.”

The junior Nevada senator has been working with Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) 9%, on a bipartisan proposal that would renew long-term unemployment benefits after they expired in December. Nevada and Rhode Island have the two highest unemployment rates in the nation.


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