Senate Budget Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said Monday that Congress should only approve President Barack Obama's request for a $2 billion immigration bill if steps are taken to avoid future immigration emergencies like the one occurring now on the southern U.S. border. He also indicated that Congress should find a way to pay for the huge spending bill, if it does decide to pass it.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Sessions said he supports the position of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who said Congress should not write a blank check for the administration.
"He says we simply can't provide money until we have some clarity that we're going to be taking action in this country that will keep this from happening in the future," Sessions said of Goodlatte. "He's certainly correct in that. We certainly need to do that."
Sessions also said $2 billion is "a lot of money," and that Obama's expected demand for that money more should force Congress to carefully consider that request.
"[W]e've got to take care of the children. We can't leave them in a certain circumstance where they're not fed or taken care of," he said. "We'll have to find some money I guess to do that."
The Obama administration has not offered any specifics about its pending request, but it is expected to put forward it's $2 billion proposal on Tuesday. Casting the request as an emergency appropriation would allow Congress not to find any spending or tax offsets, but at least some Republicans are expected to push for spending cuts to pay for the increase.
Obama may also ask Congress to pass legislation allowing U.S. border officials to immediately turn away unaccompanied immigrants at the border, to states that are not contiguous to the United States. Republicans may accept that, as many have said deportations need to be happening more quickly.
So far this year, more than 52,000 illegal immigrant children have made it across the U.S. border, and many are being held in various states around the country as they wait for deportation hearings.
Over the weekend, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson used passive language to describe the administration's response to the flood of immigrants — he noted that these immigrants would face deportation proceedings, but declined to say thousands of these people would be deported.
Sessions slammed Johnson's description on the Senate floor by saying the top immigration law enforcement officer should be more clear, in order to help persuade others not to try entering the country.
"This is the top law enforcement officer with regard to immigration in America," Sessions said. "And he could not say, 'do not come to America unlawfully, it violates our laws, we cannot accept that, if you do so you will be deported, and if you bring children, you both are going to be deported.'
"Why couldn't he say that? He couldn't say it because they've had no serious policy to effectuate that law, which is current law, since he's been in office and before," he said. "And they just don't want to say it.
"It's just stunning to me that you can't have clarity and leadership in the top people in our government."