WASHINGTON — Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King are scheduled to soon head to Texas for a first-hand look at the recent influx of unaccompanied children crossing into the United States.
The delegation of Senate and House members is being led by Collins, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The group will visit the U.S. Border Patrol’s McAllen Station in South Texas and Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio where tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America have been housed since crossing the U.S. border.
In Washington, the House will try in coming days to pass legislation giving President Barack Obama additional funds to deal with a flood of Central American child immigrants, after Republicans who control the chamber on Thursday revolted against a $659 million measure.
Republicans held a hastily called closed meeting at the Capitol after plans fell apart to pass their immigration funding bill. Another such meeting was set for early Friday.
Republicans left Thursday’s session telling reporters they will stay in Washington until they hold a vote on the House floor on legislation dealing with the tens of thousands of children, mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, who have amassed at the southwestern border.
The House was to have begun a five-week summer recess on Thursday. But chaos within Republican ranks left Republicans with little choice but to stay in Washington.
“We’ll be here until we vote,” Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama told reporters after the closed meeting. It was not yet clear what bill, if any, will be put up for a vote.
Whatever bill House Republicans can manage to pass is likely to be rejected by the Democratic-controlled Senate, which is weighing its own $2.7 billion emergency funding bill.
House Republicans, who have blocked comprehensive immigration legislation the Senate passed last year, were nervous about facing constituents over the long break without voting on something to deal with the problem Obama has termed a humanitarian crisis.
All week, House Speaker John Boehner had tried to get enough support from his fellow Republicans for the spending bill. Besides producing legislation that was far less expensive than Obama’s $3.7 billion request, Boehner also arranged for a vote on a second immigration-related measure on Thursday.
The second bill would have prohibited Obama from taking new steps on his own to suspend deportations of undocumented residents living in the United States for some time with their families and without criminal records.
But even that was not enough, as the two votes scheduled for Thursday were abruptly canceled, leaving Boehner and his leadership team to scurry for a new strategy.
Thursday’s setback put Republicans in the embarrassing position of having demanded quick action by Obama to address the child migrant problem, only to refuse the needed money to implement it.
Around 57,000 unaccompanied minors have come into the United States since October, with projections that the number could rise to 90,000 by the end of September.
Republicans and Democrats have been sparring all month over Obama’s emergency funding request.
The prospect of deporting most of the unaccompanied minors worried Democrats.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski said she had spoken to a 15-year-old Honduran girl whose parents were killed in gang violence in Honduras.
Said Mikulski, “You’re going to send her back?”
Reuters reporting by Richard Cowan, Patricia Zengerle, David Lawder and Mark Felsenthal.