Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 8, 2016

Border Task Force Boosts National Guard Role; Others Less Enthused

Granger at a hearing of her House Appropriations Committee State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs lat year. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

Granger at a hearing of her House Appropriations Committee State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs lat year. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

A House GOP border task forces recommended Wednesday that the National Guard be deployed to the southern border in response to a surge of unaccompanied minors entering the country, the same week Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced plans to use the Guard for just that. Others are less sure it’s the right answer.

The task force, led by Texas Rep. Kay Granger, the top House appropriator on foreign policy, envisions a humanitarian role for the Guard. She presented the recommendations to the Republican Conference Wednesday.

Anyone who has been to South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley knows that the men and women of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection are doing a remarkable job, but they are stretched thin with the massive surge of children crossing the border, and the quickest way to provide relief is by deploying the National Guard. The National Guard would also assist with the humanitarian care and needs of the unaccompanied minors, which will free up the Border Patrol to focus on their primary mission.

Perry has something slightly different in mind. He calls the Guard “force multipliers” that would help against drug cartels and to focus on border crossers who aren’t minors.

But there are limitations to what the troops can do. To some degree, those advancing the idea and those rejecting it have different notions about what the Guard’s role might be.

“Fox News host Brit Hume pointed out that refugees traveling thousands of miles after fleeing violent conditions would probably not be deterred by troops who could not legally shoot or arrest them.”

In Texas, “Major General John Nichols hopes to have the 1,000 trained soldiers in place in the next 45 days, and confirmed they will be armed with standard military weapons.” But will the weapons be loaded? Texas border sheriffs aren’t enthused about the notion, either.

Right now, the House and Senate appear to be moving in different directions over the idea of deploying the National Guard to the border in any supplemental spending measure, although President Barack Obama has indicated openness to the idea. But the House bill isn’t being advanced just yet, per CQ Roll Call’s Emma Dumain.

A GOP appropriations aide told reporters Wednesday morning that Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., did not present to the Republican Conference a formal draft supplemental appropriations bill to stem the tide of the border crisis, but rather laid out the committee’s analysis of what could be feasible given the working group’s recommendations and spending constraints. According to the aide, Rogers told colleagues that the maximum dollar amount that could be appropriated through the calendar year was $1.5 billion, but ultimately could come out to much less. The committee is prepared to fully offset the bill if that’s the will of the conference, with offsets coming from leftover, unused prior-year funds.

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