by Jim Nintzel
Congresswoman Martha McSally’s first border-security bill is on hold in the House of Representatives as conservatives complain that it’s a distraction from an upcoming showdown with President Barack Obama.
McSally promised to lead the fight to secure the border in Southern Arizona, but it appears as though the Southern Arizona Republican is having some trouble rounding up GOP support for the Secure Our Borders First Act of 2015, which would seek to gain operational control of the entire southern border within five years, provide additional funding for using the National Guard on the border, and penalize the political appointees of the Homeland Security Department if they don’t meet certain goals.
House leadership said the Secure Our Borders First Act of 2015, which was co-sponsored by Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), was pulled because of a winter storm that rolled though D.C. a few weeks ago. But now that lawmakers have returned to the Hill, the legislation has not been rescheduled for a vote, according to McSally spokesman Patrick Ptak.
That may be because House leaders are having trouble rounding up the votes for the bill, which isn’t expected to have much Democratic support because it commits more resources to walls and manpower but doesn’t address the status of the millions of undocumented immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for years.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the bill was “not a serious effort at legislating border security—and its authors know it. The bill is extreme to the point of being unworkable; if enacted, it would actually leave the border less secure. The bill sets mandatory and highly prescriptive standards that the Border Patrol itself regards as impossible to achieve, undermines the Department of Homeland Security’s capacity to adapt to emerging threats, and politicizes tactical decisions.”
Democrats aren’t the only ones unhappy with the legislation. Some conservatives want to focus on a bill that would cut off funding for the Department of Homeland Security past Feb. 27 unless Obama agrees to end his deferred deportation programs that could shield up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Conservative immigration hawks such as Heritage Action CEO Michael A. Needham say that if McSally’s bill passes, it could serve as a distraction from the Homeland Security funding bill because lawmakers will be able to say that they did something about illegal immigration.
“The McCaul border bill had become a shiny object, distracting nearly everyone in Washington from the fight over the President’s dangerous and unlawful amnesty,” said Needham. “The House was right to pull the bill. Congress must reassert its constitutional authority over the executive branch. Advancing any immigration measure, even border security, before reining in this lawless president is putting the cart before the horse.”
Incidentally, that Homeland Security funding bill isn’t going anywhere, either. Last week, Senate Democrats filibustered the legislation on three separate votes.
McSally declined to comment directly on Heritage Action’s allegations about the political motivations behind the bill, but she did say lawmakers shouldn’t “play politics” with border security.
“For people living along our border who have cartels and traffickers moving through their property, the dangers of our unsecured border are more than a talking point or something to play politics with—they’re a reality,” McSally said in a prepared statement. “Last week, 21 members of Congress saw that first-hand when they came to tour our border at my invitation and met with local ranchers and border residents. Informing other members of Congress about what we experience in Southern Arizona is critical to getting this legislation over the finish line, and I’ll continue working to make the voices of our residents heard and make our border more secure.”