The emergency legislation, required to ease overcrowded, often harsh conditions at U.S. holding facilities for migrants seeking asylum, mostly from Central American nations like Honduras and El Salvador, passed by a bipartisan 305-102 vote. Trump has indicated he’ll sign it into law.
“A great job done by all!” Trump tweeted from his overseas trip.
Moderate Dems Split From Pelosi
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., reluctantly brought the Senate bill to a vote by after her plan to further strengthen rules for treatment of migrant refugees ran into intractable opposition from Republican lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence. Many moderate Democrats split with Pelosi as well, undercutting her earlier efforts, which faded shortly after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he would swiftly reject them.
The legislation contains more than $1 billion to shelter and feed migrants detained by the border patrol and almost $3 billion to care for unaccompanied migrant children who are turned over the Department of Health and Human Services. It rejects an administration request for additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention beds, however, and contains provisions designed to prevent federal immigration agents from going after immigrants living in the country illegally who seek to care for unaccompanied children.
The funding is urgently needed to prevent the humanitarian emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border from worsening. The government had warned that money would run out in a matter of days.
Senate Dems Pleased
The Senate bill passed Wednesday by an 84-8 vote, with Democrats there pleased with the deal they cut with Republicans controlling the chamber.
The measure was initially only reluctantly accepted by the White House — which complained about elimination of the request for detention beds for immigrants facing removal from the U.S. — but GOP support grew after the measure presented an opportunity to outmaneuver Pelosi. Just seven Republicans opposed the bill.
“We could have done so much better,” Pelosi said in a floor speech. Earlier, Pelosi pushed a plan to ping-pong the Senate-passed bill right back across the Capitol with provisions requiring more stringent care requirements for detained migrant families and other steps. But confronted with splintering unity in the Democratic rank and file and intractable opposition from McConnell, Pelosi changed course.
Pence and Pelosi had an hour-long conversation on the legislation Thursday as the White House and Republicans kept pounding the message that the only way forward on the long-sought legislation was to pass the Senate bill.
Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short described the call as friendly and productive. Pelosi, a devout Catholic, appealed to Pence’s sense of faith.
Pelosi presented an effective case that House Democrats wanted more, Short said, but the vice president stressed that with the bipartisan vote in Senate and funding running out, now was not the time to be reopening the bill.
The leaders of the House Progressive Caucus, which includes almost half of House Democrats, immediately issued a statement calling the Senate bill — which had the backing of Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. — “entirely insufficient to protect vulnerable children in our care.”
“Standing up for human rights requires more than providing money,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.
In all, 95 Democrats opposed the bill, including a slew of prominent Pelosi allies like Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., and other authors of the alternative House approach. Pelosi told members to vote their conscience.
Big Victory for McConnell
Thursday’s outcome was a victory for McConnell, who vowed that the GOP-held Senate would kill any “partisan” House changes that the Democratic-controlled House passed, and he appeared to hold a strong hand. All sides agreed that Congress wouldn’t leave for its Independence Day recess until the measure was passed in some form.
“The United States Senate is not going to pass a border funding bill that cuts the money for ICE and the Department of Defense. It’s not going to happen. We already have our compromise,” McConnell said. He called the Senate bill “the only game in town.”
McConnell said the White House might support making some changes administratively — which have less than the force of law — to address some Democratic concerns.
In fact, Pence agreed that lawmakers would be notified within 24 hours when a child died in custody, said people familiar with his call with Pelosi. The vice president also agreed to the 90-day time limit for migrant children to be housed in influx facilities.