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Obama To Request $2 Billion To Deal With Border Issue


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Renee Montagne. Faced with a huge influx of Central American children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, President Obama today is presenting Congress with a set of proposals to deal with the problem. The arrival of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children and teenagers has overwhelmed shelters in the border region. The president is expected to ask for more than $2 billion for extra security on the border and humanitarian aid. To get a sense of the reception the president can expect from Congress, we're joined now by Cokie Roberts, as we are most Mondays. Good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: So this is an incredible situation on the border with these waves upon waves of children arriving alone. What is President Obama proposing to do exactly about it?

ROBERTS: Well, it is an odd situation because these rumors have spread in Central America that kids can come and stay. And that's not crazy because the law that was signed by President Bush in 2008, which was designed to be a humane law, says that kids from any place but Canada and Mexico - that is, contiguous countries - could not be deported while their cases are being heard. But instead they must be sent to family members in the U.S. while they fight their cases in court, so many of them just end up staying. The word is out now in Central America where there is tremendous violence going on. The president wants to be able to change the law so that he can send these kids home. Now, mainly he's trying to get a message out in Central America that they shouldn't be sending these kids on these very long, very dangerous trips. But in order to send that message effectively, Congress has to act.

MONTAGNE: Well, not only has Congress has been unwilling to act on anything President Obama pushes for - is pushing for especially on immigration, but now the speaker of the house says he's ready to bring suit against the president for the executive actions he's been taking on his own.

ROBERTS: Right, so even though the Republicans in Congress might agree with the president on the kids-on-the-border issue, it's hard to see how they get pass what's now just this incredible lines-drawn-in-the-sand atmosphere that we're dealing with here in Washington. Any attempts at reaching across the aisle have been thwarted by both sides, and now the message of the Congressional primary season has been, don't do it, don't reach across the aisle.

So the speaker, dealing with that political reality, is saying he'll sue the president over what he calls unconstitutional power-grabs by the executive branch. Now, he hasn't said exactly what particular actions he's threatening to sue over, but he has been and other Republicans have been chaffing over things like changes in immigration, the minimum wage for federal workers, implementation of Obamacare, changing the way that has rolled out. All of those things have Republicans saying that the president is skirting Congress in an unconstitutional fashion.

MONTAGNE: And the president's response has been to dismiss the lawsuit as a stunt, a political ploy, playing to the Republican base. But you have seen similar lawsuits over the years.

ROBERTS: Yeah, I've seen them come, and I've seen them mainly go - from the left and the right. Essentially what you have is members of Congress over the years suing because they disagree with the president on his decisions, and the court has generally said that members of Congress don't even have the right to sue. They don't have standing because they haven't been harmed by the president's actions.

Still in looking at the history, it does tell you something, Renee, which is that political parties are always foolish to align themselves with one branch of government or the other because their positions change, and they find themselves in an untenable place. What they pronounce as principle in an administration they don't like, they denounce as politics in one they do. We saw it all through the Reagan years when the Democrats insisted on congressional prerogatives and railed against the president. Now we're seeing the reverse.

MONTAGNE: Well, Cokie, we just have a few seconds here, but this remembers us that the Supreme Court weighed in pretty firmly on the side of Congress last week on the question of President Obama's appointments during a congressional recess.

ROBERTS: Right, and justice Breyer's argument that the Senate is in recess when it says it's in recess, seems pretty clear. We'll see what that means for the president’s ability to get appointments through. The first one up is likely to come right away with his replacement for the head of Veterans Administration, Bob McDonald.

MONTAGNE: Cokie, thanks much. That's commentator Cokie Roberts. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cokie Roberts died September 17, 2019, at age 75.
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