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 AmashHouse Freedom Caucus votes to condemn Amash's impeachment comments Barr says he's working to protect presidency, not Trump Amash storm hits Capitol Hill 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 TrumpWhat the Mueller report tells us about Putin, Russia and Trump's election Fox's Brit Hume fires back at Trump's criticism of the channel Anti-US trade war song going viral in China 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 HoyerSenators say they've reached deal on Puerto Rico aid 5 things to watch as Trump, Dems clash over investigations GOP lawmaker: Trump has engaged in multiple actions that 'meet the threshold for 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 Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiTrump jokingly suggests serving as many as five terms GOP senator warns Trump, Mulvaney against 'draconian' budget cuts Press: Justin Amash breaks ranks with party 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 McCarthyAmash storm hits Capitol Hill Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — McConnell, Kaine offer bill to raise tobacco buying age to 21 | Measles outbreak spreads to 24 states | Pro-ObamaCare group launches ad blitz to protect Dems Press: Justin Amash breaks ranks with party MORE (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseAmash storm hits Capitol Hill Trump hits Amash after congressman doubles down on impeachment talk Trump encouraged Scalise to run for governor in Louisiana: report 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 storm hits Capitol Hill Debate with Donald Trump? Just say no Ex-Trump adviser says GOP needs a better health-care message for 2020 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 HigginsGOP lawmaker vows to catch those responsible for string of arsons at black churches in Louisiana GOP lawmaker says border situation threatens US 'integrity' Nielsen testifies: Five things you need to know 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 BookerDe Blasio pitches himself as tough New Yorker who can take on 'Don the con' Sanders pledges to only nominate Supreme Court justices that support Roe v. Wade From dive bars to steakhouses: How Iowa caucus staffers blow off steam MORE (N.J.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandO'Rourke says he would 'absolutely' do Fox News town hall Gillibrand 'very unhappy' with 'Game of Thrones' finale Gillibrand endorses DC statehood: Democracy doesn't mean 'for some of us' MORE (N.Y.), as well as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D). The House bill, sponsored by Rep. Mark PocanMark William PocanDems walk Trump trade tightrope Hoyer defends Tlaib Holocaust remarks after criticism from GOP Delta Airlines slammed for poster suggesting employees buy video games instead of paying union dues 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.”