The House has passed a $4.6 billion emergency border aid package following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) decision to back down on efforts to amend the bill, after facing intense pressure to approve it before the weeklong recess.
The bill passed 322–85 in the afternoon of June 27, allowing the Senate-drafted measure aimed to address the humanitarian crisis at the U.S.–Mexico border to be sent to President Donald Trump for signature.
The measure would ease a cash crunch at federal agencies that care for migrants, after their facilities and resources were overwhelmed by an influx of illegal immigrants in recent months.
Hours after she pressed for changes to the Senate’s bill, Pelosi said in a statement on June 27 that she was abandoning a plan to add further measures for migrant children in order to break the impasse on passing the bill.
“In order to get resources to the children fastest, we will reluctantly pass the Senate bill,” Pelosi said in an open letter addressed to House Democrats.
The border funding package to fund Trump’s humanitarian aid request for the southern border returned to the House after passing the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support, passing with an 84–8 vote on June 26. The House attempted to make changes to the bill on the morning of June 27, stating that it needed more protections for migrant children. But their version of the bill denied most of the much-needed funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was quick to reject the House’s new version.
Vice President Mike Pence and Pelosi had an hour-long conversation on the legislation on June 27.
Facing extensive pressure and with the recess looming, Pelosi subsequently decided to reverse course.
“At the end of the day, we have to make sure that the resources needed to protect the children are available. Therefore, we will not engage in the same disrespectful behavior that the Senate did in ignoring our priorities,” Pelosi said in her letter. “As we pass the Senate bill, we will do so with a Battle Cry as to how we go forward to protect children in a way that truly honors their dignity and worth.”
The bill 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 to the Department of Health and Human Services. The Senate version of the legislation isn’t as strict in setting conditions on the delivery of funding to care for unaccompanied children and contains funding, which is opposed by House Democrats, to finance logistical support provided by the Defense Department and to ease a payroll pinch at ICE.
Earlier in the day, McConnell said on the Senate floor that they would reject any “partisan effort to disrupt our bipartisan progress,” adding that Senate Republicans had already made a compromise on the bill.
“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,” McConnell said.
“In the middle of this historic surge on the border, they want to claw back some of this badly needed money from the men and women on the front lines. It looks like these cuts would represent pay cuts to ICE staff, including pay that people have already earned, and cuts to the money for investigating child trafficking,” he explained earlier in his speech.
The Office of Press Secretary also issued a statement on June 27 on the bill’s standstill, calling on House Democrats to pass the Senate bill and stop delaying the funding.
“The only ones delaying help for the children are the Democrats,” the statement said. “They falsely claimed all year that the situation at the border was a ‘manufactured crisis’ and denied desperately needed humanitarian funding for months. They have refused to work with Republicans to end incentives for the human trafficking that takes advantage of women and children, or to end the surge of cartels bringing in illegal drugs.”
“The Administration sent its request for emergency funding 8 weeks ago, but there was no action. We have already negotiated a broadly supported bipartisan funding bill. It is time for House Democrats to pass the Senate bill and stop delaying funding to deal with this very real humanitarian crisis,” the statement added.
Reacting to Pelosi’s announcement, some progressive House Democrats expressed anger over the decision.
“Under no circumstances should the House vote for a McConnell-only bill w/ no negotiation with Democrats. … no. That’s an abdication of power we should refuse to accept. They will keep hurting kids if we do,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) wrote in a tweet on June 27.
Under no circumstances should the House vote for a McConnell-only bill w/ no negotiation with Democrats. … no.
That’s an abdication of power we should refuse to accept. They will keep hurting kids if we do.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 27, 2019
“We have time. We can stay in town. We can at least add some amendments to this Senate bill. But to pass it completely unamended with no House input? That seems a bridge too far,” she added.
We have time. We can stay in town. We can at LEAST add some amendments to this Senate bill. But to pass it completely unamended with no House input? That seems a bridge too far.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 27, 2019
Meanwhile, top Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) urged Pelosi to approve the Senate version of the bill earlier in the day.
“No Republican gets everything they want and no Democrat gets everything they want. Our bill is a good compromise,” he told The Hill.
On June 26, Trump weighed in on the Senate bill in a tweet.
“The Republican Senate just passed bipartisan humanitarian assistance for our Southern Border, 84-8! In addition to aid, Congress must close the catastrophic loopholes that are driving the Crisis. We must end incentives for Smuggling Children, Trafficking Women, and Selling Drugs,” he said.
The Republican Senate just passed bipartisan humanitarian assistance for our Southern Border, 84-8! In addition to aid, Congress must close the catastrophic loopholes that are driving the Crisis. We must end incentives for Smuggling Children, Trafficking Women, and Selling Drugs.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 26, 2019
The border package has garnered considerable attention as Congress heads to recess amid an unprecedented border crisis.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has repeatedly warned that the influx of family units from Central America in recent months has overwhelmed Border Patrol facilities and resources and created a humanitarian crisis. In May, Border Patrol agents detained more than 132,000 people crossing from Mexico—the highest level over more than a decade. Moreover, during the first seven months of the 2019 fiscal year, 531,711 illegal immigrants crossed the border into the United States, according to CBP data.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.