Congress tied in knots over border plans

“The influx of unaccompanied alien children across the southwest border of the United States,” said a memorandum issued by President Barack Obama on June 2, “has resulted in an urgent humanitarian situation requiring a unified and coordinated Federal response.”

The president’s detractors immediately said the “situation,” soon described as a “crisis,” had been building for months and he had taken no action.

Still, his memo ordered the White House team into action and directed all federal departments and agencies to “provide their full and prompt cooperation, resources and support.”

What followed was a virtual stampede of political figures to the South Texas border to see the problem for themselves and, not coincidentally, to be pictured by media representatives showing concern and placing blame.

That’s gone on for two months. During it all, about the only solid thing to come out of Washington was Obama’s request for $3.7 billion to deal with the problem.

There have been plenty of arguments about the proper steps to take, how much money to spend and whether it’s appropriate to change a 2008 law that some lawmakers say encouraged people, including children, to flee bad conditions in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and cross into the United States illegally.

Today, after eight weeks of talk about the crisis and with members of Congress anxious to leave Washington for a five-week recess, if they take any real action on this “urgent” issue, it will only be just barely.

Political gamesmanship, competing House and Senate bills, White House advisers saying they would recommend a veto if the bill advanced by House Republicans were to pass — all presaged a slim margin between action and stalemate.

That should not be. This is a crisis, and it is urgent. Our government should be able to deal with it.

Many Democrats and White House advisers object to including changes in the 2008 law, but Obama himself once advocated change. The change pushed by House Republicans is workable.

The only other relevant differences are over how much money to spend. A responsible Congress could work that out today.