Congress Races to Finish VA, Highway Bills

WASHINGTON (AP) -

Congress ran full-tilt into election-year gridlock over immigration Thursday and staggered toward a five-week summer break with no agreement in sight on legislation to cope with the influx of young immigrants flocking illegally to the United States.

Prospects were considerably brighter for bipartisan measures to improve veterans’ health care, prevent a cutoff in highway construction aid and send Israel additional money for its missile defense system. Officials in both parties said all three bills appeared likely to clear Congress by day’s end and go to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature.

But three months before midterm elections, the unbreakable dispute over immigration exposed longstanding differences inside Republican ranks, postponing the start of the House’s vacation one day until Friday. And a new outburst of harsh partisan rhetoric between leading officials in both parties served as yet another reminder that after 18 months in office, the current Congress has little to show for its efforts apart from abysmally low public approval ratings.

Legislation providing money for Iron Dome, the Israeli missile defense system, had yet to be made public late in the day. Instead, the funding was tucked inside a border security bill that was drafted by Senate Democrats and opposed by Republicans.

Officials said they expected that the Israeli money eventually would be broken out, the Senate would approve it and the House would agree.