While Republicans hope to again become the majority party, the chaos over passage of border security and immigration legislation on Friday led some conservatives to voice frustration at Republican incompetence.
After the Democratic-controlled Senate failed to pass legislation to deal with the current border crisis, House Republicans had an opportunity to demonstrate to the public that they could address the issue where the Democrats failed. Instead, House leaders were unable to garner enough votes on Thursday for their bill to address the crisis.
The leaders convened their caucus on Friday morning, desperate to pass something before their members headed back to their districts to prepare for the November elections. Late Friday they ended up passing two bills that were more designed to send a message than to be a serious attempt at addressing the crisis.
One of the bills would block, after two years, President Barack Obama's deferred deportation, or "Dreamers," executive actions for the children of unauthorized immigrants. The other bill would send $35 million to Southern border state governors to pay for additional National Guard costs and would have made some revisions to the 2008 William Wilberforce Act, an anti-trafficking law that some blame for the current crisis because it makes deporting unaccompanied children more difficult.
Kimberly Strassel, a conservative columnist and Wall Street Journal editorial board member, pointed out the Republican's missed opportunity on Fox News Sunday.
"What you actually saw here," she said, "... was this kind of Republican act of self-masochism. ... They had only one job this week, which was to pass a bill that would show their response to this issue down on the border and all they had to do was go put it out there. And instead, ... they said that rather this be a bill about the immediate issue down there, that it instead it should be another fight with the president over his future immigration powers. They exposed all the wounds in the party."
Strassel's criticism came a day after The Wall Street Journal's editors harshly criticized House Republicans.
"A party whose preoccupation is deporting children is going to alienate many conservatives, never mind minority voters," they wrote.
Later in the panel discussion, Strassel accused the Republicans of "self-emulation" because they have continued to describe the situation as a crisis but failed to pass legislation that could become law and address the issue.
While Republicans will likely do well in the November elections, she added, the incompetence demonstrated last week could lead voters to wonder whether Republicans are capable of governing.
"One of the key questions that is going to be asked is whether or not they can govern, and in a moment like this ... which is exposing all the wounds and again the fact that the party can't get this is just not good for them," Strassel said.
Matt Lewis, a conservative columnist for The Week, criticized conservatives who seem more interested in deportation than helping the children crossing the border.
In a column published Friday, before the House passed the two bills, he wrote, "I would suggest that a moral nation has an obligation to come to the aid of children who are fleeing grave danger. A nation as blessed as America ought to be a force for good in the world. ...
"And I'm tired of conservatives acting as if we live in a world of limited resources, where we are all fighting over a small piece of the same pie, instead of realizing we can grow that pie. ...
"The GOP can become the party of the angry and the dispossessed — not the party of the aspirational and the generous. But why would we want to?"