Mikulski: Emergency funding means no offsets

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwomen Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said she wouldn’t support an emergency spending bill that included offsets because it would take money away from programs that help American families.

“Under emergency funding it means there are no offsets,” Mikulski said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “We don’t have to take the money from other important programs that do help American families.”

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Earlier Wednesday, the Senate voted 63-33 in the first procedural vote on S. 2648, a bill from Mikulski that provides $2.7 billion in emergency funds to deal with the influx of immigrant children.

“This bill is a funding bill. It doesn’t include immigration legislation,” Mikulski said. “This is a clean funding bill.”

Lawmakers have grown increasingly concerned over the thousands of immigrant children from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala being detained at the U.S.-Mexico border. But the House and Senate have proposed drastically different ways to deal with the problem.

The House is moving forward with a rival border bill that would provide $659 million, with most of the money going toward border security rather than assistance for the detained children. Their bill also contains cost offsets.

Mikulski said money to go after the human traffickers moving the children has to be included in any supplemental bill if the problem is to be stopped.

“We’ve got to go after the criminals in Central America and not treat these children like they are the criminals,” Mikulski said. “They need our help. If you don’t want the crisis at our border, deal with the crisis in Central America.”

The children are fleeing countries corrupted by the violence of drug cartels. Many are seeking refugee status because they fear for their lives, but the Republican House bill also includes language to expedite the deportation of the children.

It seems unlikely that an agreement will be reached before Congress adjourns at the end of the week for the August recess.