Washington: US Republicans on Thursday scrapped a congressional vote on a measure to deal with an influx of thousands of Central American children, but could reverse that decision before departing for a five-week break.
As a final major agenda item before summer vacation, the Republican-led House of Representatives had scheduled a vote on a bill to provide $659 million in emergency aid for the humanitarian crisis at the border.
But House leaders announced at the last minute that they had scrapped the vote, a measure which seemed likely to go down to defeat because of opposition from Democrats and conservative Republicans.
A wave of undocumented children and families has grabbed headlines in the United States for weeks and has consumed lawmakers and US officials trying to halt the flow of migrants.
Party elders, who were meeting late Thursday to twist arms and plot strategy, said they now are keeping their options open and may reschedule the vote.
The amount of funding in the House bill was just a fraction of the $3.7 billion requested by President Barack Obama to increase border security and hire additional immigration court judges. Some Republicans ruled out providing that sum, which they deemed excessive.
Many Republicans also oppose spending more on the border unless Obama and congressional Democrats agree to changes in an anti-trafficking law that many blame for the Central American exodus.
Lawmakers want to make it easier for US authorities to deport undocumented Central Americans, in line with laws that apply to undocumented Mexican migrants.
US border officials have warned that they will run out of money to deal with the humanitarian crisis without a fresh infusion of funds to house and care for the young migrants, and to pay for the immigration hearings to resolve their status.
US officials have said that almost 57,000 unaccompanied children have arrived this year from Central America, fleeing poverty and violence at home, and hoping in many instances to reunite with relatives already in the United States.
The huge exodus, mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, has overwhelmed US authorities lacking the financial and legal means to curb the illegal influx.
The difficulty scheduling a vote on the measure stood as yet another symbol of congressional paralysis during a legislative session that critics have called the least productive in history.
The scuppered vote comes one day after the House approved a measure to sue Obama, once again revealing jagged US partisan rifts.
If they fail to hold a vote, Congress will have to pick up the measure again when it returns to work on September 8.