You know it's bad in Washington when the House and Senate can't muster enough votes for a bill addressing what both sides call a crisis.
There was supposed to be a House vote Thursday on an emergency funding bill to address the influx of unaccompanied minors at the border. El Monte Democrat Judy Chu was gearing up when, she says, the measure mysteriously disappeared. "The Republicans didn't have the votes," Chu said.
The House floor was wild with activity. Members clustered together in small groups. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield spent his last day as Majority Whip trying to count noses. On August first, he rises to the number two role in leadership. But rather than congratulations, Burbank Democrat Adam Schiff practically offered his condolences, saying, "they have a very hard conference to keep together on anything controversial."
After the border bill vote was cancelled, some members headed to the airport, trading coats and ties for polo shirts and tennis shoes. California’s Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom even showed up, shaking hands and chatting up almost gleeful Democrats. He was on his way to the White House for a Special Olympics event he's involved in. It felt like the last day of school. But sadly, recess was cancelled.
The GOP leadership called a meeting and reporters lined the basement hallways - staring at phones and tweeting. The forbidden smell of tobacco leaked from the Republican meeting room. When lawmakers came out - reporters pounced. South Lake Tahoe Congressman Tom McClintock described the debate as a "deliberative body that follows a deliberative process and there was a great deal of deliberation."
Riverside Congressman Ken Calvert says there'll be more border bill discussion on Friday, as the house GOP tries to appeal to folks on the right, trying to "bring the family together and get to 218 votes."
Friday will be another day of drama, but in the end, it doesn't really matter.
Thursday night, the Senate failed to pass its version of the emergency funding measure, blocked by Republicans frustrated that they couldn't add amendments to the bill. That Senate bill had four times the money, with extras for fighting wildfires and beefing up Israel's "Iron Dome" missile defense system. Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama pulled a legislative point of order out of his hat and the Senate measure failed to get enough votes to avoid a filibuster. The bill was killed by a vote of 50-44. And the Senate was done for the summer.
All that's left are the talking points members will use to discuss the issue of unaccompanied minors all summer, as they campaign to return to Capitol Hill after the November elections.