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US$3.7 billion emergency US border request too much: House chairman

WASHINGTON -- A key Republican said Friday that President Barack Obama's multibillion-dollar emergency request for the border is too big to get through the House, as a growing number of Democrats rejected policy changes Republicans are demanding as their price for approving any money.

The developments indicated that Obama faces an uphill climb as he pushes Congress to approve US$3.7 billion to deal with tens of thousands of unaccompanied children who have been arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border from poor and gang-ridden Central American nations. And they suggested that even as the children keep coming, any final resolution is likely weeks away in Congress.

As House members gathered Friday morning to finish up legislative business for the week, Rep. Hal Rogers, chairman of the Appropriations Committee that controls spending, told reporters: “It's too much money. We don't need it.”

Rogers, who had previously sounded open to the spending request for more immigration judges, State Department programs and other items, said that Obama's request includes some spending to meet immediate needs, and his committee is working to sort that out.

But he said other aspects can be handled through Congress' regular spending bills, though no final action is likely on those until after the November congressional elections. And asked whether the House would approve the spending package as-is, he said “no.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest responded by saying that “we're open to working with Democrats and Republicans in Congress to get this done.”

“The thing that I would point out, though, is that the president has moved quickly to be very clear about what specifically needs to be funded,” Earnest said. “And we would like to see Republicans back up their rhetoric with the kind of urgent action that this situation merits.”

Rogers spoke shortly after the Congressional Hispanic Caucus convened a news conference to denounce efforts to attach legal changes to the spending measure that would result in returning the children home more quickly to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Those countries account for the bulk of the more than 57,000 unaccompanied children who've arrived since October.

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