HERSHEY, Pennsylvania — Rep. Lou Barletta, who serves on the Homeland Security Committee, told reporters Friday that in light of recent terror attacks in Europe he has been focusing not only on securing the border to the south, but to the north as well.
"To me, it could be more likely that our threat could come in from Canada on our open borders there as well," the Republican from Pennsylvania said.
He made his comments towards the end of this week's joint Republican retreat, where one priority has been addressing U.S. immigration policy and, more immediately, funding the Department of Homeland Security. Due to a short term funding bill passed last year, DHS needs to be re-funded by Feb. 27.
This is not the first time Barletta has turned his attention to the Canadian border. His Visa Overstay Act in the last Congress sought to implement changes to Canadian border security.
Members coming in and out of meetings at the Hershey Lodge over the last two days have said leadership has been open to input from members from across the party spectrum on how to fund DHS should their bill fail in the Senate. They are also listening to suggestions on how to tackle immigration policy overall, which many say will likely come with piecemeal legislation rather than a comprehensive bill.
The House passed a bill this week to fund DHS long term, but it also included language to defund the president's immigration executive order and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate would vote on the bill, or some version of it, but it seems unlikely to pass the upper chamber. The Senate would need at least six Democrats to sign on to the bill.
The promise for action on immigration was also made by Republican leadership at last year's retreat and it never materialized, which has caused some skepticism to this year's renewed promise for action. Still, Republican pushing for an immigration bill say there are several hurdles to getting anything done, including the president's executive order.
Despite recent intra-party squabbles, the feeling among members, at least publicly, is that with control of both sides of the Hill and the ability to go to conference, they can finally manage to get something done. Even Rep. Steve King, a notorious thorn in leadership's side, told BuzzFeed News early talks with leadership have been "good and constructive and reflect the general will of the conference."
One Republican Congressman described this year's proposal as having "a little more meat on the bones," especially when talking about border security, which Republicans have said needs to be the first step if to passing an immigration bill this Congress.
"No one person will get it exactly the way they want it, and that's been difficult for us to be able to compromise," said Rep. Michael Conaway, a member of the conservative Republican Study Committee. "Another year of a broken system and people understanding that this is not going to get better on its own. Ignoring it is not the right answer.