House backs resolution expressing support for ICE
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The House on Wednesday approved a GOP resolution expressing support for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) amid a push from some liberal Democrats to dismantle the agency altogether.

Republicans had hoped to divide Democrats by bringing up legislation hailing ICE as vital to the protection of Americans’ public safety — a vote that could prove significant in pockets of the country where immigration enforcement resonates most loudly.

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The measure was approved in a 244-35 vote that fell largely on party lines. Eighteen Democrats voted to back ICE and 34 opposed the resolution, which for procedural reasons required support from two-thirds of the lawmakers to pass. Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashAmash: Some retiring GOP lawmakers may reenter politics once Trump is gone Sunday shows — Mulvaney seeks to tamp down firestorm over quid pro quo comments, Doral decision Amash rips Trump over move to send troops from Syria to Iraq MORE (R-Mich.), a libertarian-minded lawmaker known for bucking his own leadership, was the only Republican to vote against the resolution.

The measure has little chance of moving further, as Senate Democrats — tapping the power of the filibuster — blocked a similar Republican resolution on Wednesday.

Republicans have pounced on those Democrats seeking to abolish ICE, accusing them of defending immigrants with no legal status — including violent criminals — instead of protecting the American public.

As if to drive the point home, President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham to introduce resolution condemning House impeachment inquiry Support for impeachment inches up in poll Fox News's Bret Baier calls Trump's attacks on media 'a problem' MORE took to Twitter after the vote in a remarkable attack equating Democrats with a violent Hispanic gang.

“The two biggest opponents of ICE in America today are the Democratic Party and MS-13!” Trump tweeted.

Democratic leaders did not formally whip Wednesday’s vote, but they had urged their members to vote “present.” The strategy was aimed at both protecting vulnerable Democrats from a contentious vote and protesting what most Democrats deemed a political stunt designed to distract the media and the public from Congress’s failure to enact immigration reforms, including efforts to address the separation of migrant families on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Most Democrats did just that, with 133 voting “present.”

“I’m voting ‘present’ on this resolution because it’s a sham and a distraction,” Rep. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThis week: Tensions flare over Schiff, impeachment inquiry House Republicans 'demand the release of the rules' on impeachment Scalise, Cole introduce resolution to change rules on impeachment MORE (D-Md.), the minority whip, said just before the vote. “It’s an outrageous attempt to hide the continued suffering of children behind the partisans’ attack on Democrats.”

“This is a very sad day,” echoed House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGraham to introduce resolution condemning House impeachment inquiry Democrats say they have game changer on impeachment Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg would support delaying Libra | More attorneys general join Facebook probe | Defense chief recuses from 'war cloud' contract | Senate GOP blocks two election security bills | FTC brings case against 'stalking' app developer MORE (D-Calif.), pivoting to the controversy surrounding the separation of migrant families at the border.

The ICE debate has not been contentious only for Democrats. Disagreements among the GOP brass over how best to approach the issue — and highlight the liberal “abolish ICE” movement — have also flared up in recent days.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Memo: Trump 'lynching' firestorm is sign of things to come McConnell: Trump lynching comment 'an unfortunate choice of words' White House spokesman: Trump didn't mean to compare his experience with 'darkest moments' in US history MORE (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseMcCarthy on Trump's 'lynching' comparison: 'That's not the language I would use' House rejects GOP measure censuring Schiff This week: Tensions flare over Schiff, impeachment inquiry MORE (R-La.) had initially wanted to bring to the floor a measure sponsored by several liberal Democrats that would have abolished ICE, redirecting the agency’s duties to other branches of the federal government.

The strategy was rejected by Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAmash: Trump incorrect in claiming Congress didn't subpoena Obama officials Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate MORE (R-Wis.), who has vowed not to consider any immigration legislation that lacks Trump’s support. As a result, the Republicans altered course and opted to consider the resolution hailing ICE instead of that terminating it, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions.

That decision arrived after the liberal sponsors of the “abolish ICE” legislation indicated they would oppose their own bill, if it hit the floor, to protest the Republicans’ effort to force Democrats to take tough votes on legislation with no chance of passing.

GOP leaders pounced on the announcement.

“They lack the courage of their so-called convictions, because when we offered the ability to bring the bill up, abolish ICE ... Democrats said they would vote ‘no,’ ” McCarthy said Wednesday on the House floor. “They wanted the glory of introducing a bill to the far left of their own party, but they didn’t have the guts to accept the consequences. That’s the kind of leadership that the Democrats have to offer.”

The measure backing ICE, introduced by Rep. Clay HigginsGlen (Clay) Clay HigginsVA under pressure to ease medical marijuana rules 58 GOP lawmakers vote against disaster aid bill GOP lawmaker vows to catch those responsible for string of arsons at black churches in Louisiana MORE (R-La.), highlights the agency’s work in combatting drug and human trafficking. It argues that eliminating the agency would lead to an increase in crime and open borders. Those urging ICE’s termination, it continues, pose “an insult to these heroic law enforcement officers who make sacrifices every day to secure our borders, enforce our laws, and protect our safety and security.”

Calls to abolish ICE, which was formed in 2003, gained national prominence following last month’s shocking primary defeat of Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a young Hispanic activist who made the elimination of ICE — and the reallocation of its duties — a central component of her successful campaign.

The movement picked up steam with the endorsement of several prominent Democratic lawmakers, including Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerProgressive commentator: Voters becoming weary of Warren policy proposals Saagar Enjeti: Warren, Buttigieg don't stand a chance against Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump faces backlash for comparing impeachment to 'lynching' MORE (N.J.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSanders seeks spark from Ocasio-Cortez at Queens rally Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs Senate confirms Trump's Air Force secretary pick MORE (N.Y.), as well as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D). The House bill, sponsored by Rep. Mark PocanMark William PocanHouse progressives to push for floor amendments on Pelosi drug price bill How Trump and Pelosi went from bad to worse Top progressive calls for Pompeo's salary to be withheld over Sondland's blocked testimony MORE (D-Wis.), arrived last Thursday.

Democratic leaders, however, have pushed back against the notion of scrapping the agency, arguing it should instead be reformed to rein in an enforcement arm they consider overly militarized.

“The responsibilities that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has must be done,” Hoyer said. “What we need to eliminate are bad practices, inhumane practices, practices inconsistent … with the American ethic.”