This week: Congress set for clash on Trump’s border request

Getty Images

The House and Senate are set to take up competing bills this week that would provide President Trump more than $4.5 billion in new funding tied to the U.S.-Mexico border.

The looming clash comes as Congress is expected to leave town at the end of the week for the Fourth of July recess, making it unlikely they’ll resolve the standoff over the bills before the break absent an eleventh hour agreement.

The House and Senate bills both provide the administration with more than $4.5 billion, including new money to help shore up a Health and Human Services (HHS) unaccompanied children program set to run out of money. But they split over the details, including money for the Pentagon, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection.{mosads}

Lawmakers had hoped to get a bill to Trump’s desk before leaving for the break, after the funding was yanked out of the disaster aid package because of a disagreement over immigration-related provisions.

But Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said late last week that he had not started negotiating with House Democrats about a way to quickly reconcile their competing bills and painted a conference committee, which would delay the funding until at least mid-July, as likely.

“They’ve got their own version. We’ll work our will … and obviously we’ll go to conference, and we’ll either hash it or not,” Shelby said.

Trump has requested a total of $4.5 billion in emergency border funding. Roughly $3.3 billion would have gone toward increasing shelters and care for unaccompanied minors in addition to processing arrivals, while $1.1 billion was for other border operations such as expanding the number of detention beds and providing more investigation resources.

Though both sides say they support additional humanitarian aid, Trump’s immigration policies have emerged as a lightning rod among the base in both parties.

Democrats have been wary of supporting anything that could, directly or indirectly, help enforce Trump’s immigration and border policies.{mossecondads}

The House bill does not include any Defense Department funding. It also doesn’t include $61 million to address a pay shortfall or $3.7 million in overtime costs for ICE. It also includes myriad restrictions on how funds can and cannot be used, and reinstates hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras after the administration slashed funding last week.

The House bill was rolled out Friday only by Democrats, raising questions about what kind of support it will muster from House Republicans. Without significant GOP support it’s likely doomed in the GOP-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is expected to force a vote this week on the deal crafted by Shelby and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

But Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) touted the House measure on Sunday, saying it provides “strong border legislation” while also protecting “vulnerable children.”

“The legislation protects families. It does not fund the Administration’s failed mass detention policy, but, instead, funds effective, humane alternatives to detention with a proven track record of success,” Pelosi said.

She added that the House bill “places strict limits on influx shelters, protects sponsors from DHS immigration enforcement based on information collected by HHS during the vetting process and creates strong oversight by Congress including to protect unaccompanied children.”

House appropriations

The fight over Trump’s border funding request comes as House Democrats are moving forward with up to three additional fiscal 2020 government funding packages.

The lower chamber is slated to finish consideration of a $383 billion package that includes funding for commerce, justice, science, agriculture, interior, military construction, veterans affairs, transportation, and housing and urban development.

The House is also set to take up the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act. House Democrats could try again to move the legislative branch spending bill, which was pulled earlier this month amid backlash over a provision that would have given lawmakers a pay raise for the first time in a decade. 

The House action comes as the Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to move any of the 12 government funding bills. Congress has until Oct. 1 to approve all of them, either individually or as a package, and prevent the second government shutdown of the year.

Without a deal to increase the spending caps, the Senate is expected to try to “deem” top-line numbers after the July Fourth recess, similar to the process being used in the House.

Top members of leadership met with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought last week to try to get talks aimed at clinching a deal to raise the defense and non-defense budget caps back on track.

But the meeting ended without an agreement, or visible signs of progress.

Shelby, asked where the talks were going, told reporters: “We don’t really know.”

“I don’t think you could say we made a lot of headway,” Shelby said. “[But] that was progress in itself, getting to the table.”

Election security

The Securing America’s Federal Elections Act is slated to come to the House floor this week.

The bill, which would require election systems to use voter-verified paper ballots in an attempt to avoid election interference, advanced out of the House Administration Committee along party lines on Friday.

The bill — which would authorize $600 million for the Election Assistance Commission to allocate to states to enhance their security ahead of 2020 — includes language that would bar voting machines from being connected to the internet and being produced in foreign countries.

The bill, spearheaded by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.),received staunch pushback from GOP lawmakers, who argued Democrats included language that made it polarizing, comparing it to H.R. 1, a wide-ranging election and ethics reform bill.

“There are a lot of things in our bill and in their bill that we can agree on, but then all of a sudden leadership from Speaker Pelosi’s office and the Democrat leadership team basically said stop negotiating with Republicans, and that is not what the American people want,” Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), the ranking member on the committee, told The Hill.

The bill is likely to go nowhere in the GOP-controlled Senate, where Democrats’ election security measures have hit a wall.

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said earlier this year that he is not planning to bring up election security-related bills for a vote in his committee because McConnell “is of the view that this debate reaches no conclusion.”

McConnell added during a Fox News interview that he cares about election security, but believes Democrats are trying to politicize the issue.

“I’m open to considering legislation, but it has to be directed in a way that doesn’t undermine state and local control of elections. The Democrats … would like to nationalize everything. They want the federal government to take over broad swaths of the election process because they think that would somehow benefit them,” McConnell said.

Hatch Act

The House Oversight and Reform Committee is slated to hold a hearing Wednesday in which it’s expected to vote on whether it will authorize a subpoena for White House counselor Kellyanne Conway over allegations she violated the Hatch Act.

According to a memo recently released by the committee, the panel “will hold a hearing to examine the recommendation of the independent Office of Special Counsel (OSC) that President Trump remove Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway from federal service, as well as reports by OSC about Ms. Conway and other Trump Administration appointees.”

“The Committee also will hold a business meeting to consider a subpoena in the event that Ms. Conway does not appear,” it said.

The hearing comes in the wake of Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) sending a letter to Conway earlier this month asking her to respond to the findings in the OSC’s 17-page report stating she violated the law and requesting her to appear before the panel.

Conway violated the Hatch Act “by disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media,” per the report.

She has not yet responded to the committee’s requests. Trump has asserted he will not fire Conway over the violation.


The Senate will formally start, and is expected to wrap up, work on a massive defense bill that authorizes billions in spending for the Pentagon.

Senators will vote on Monday evening to formally start debate on the National Defense Authorization Act. Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) has also warned they need to finish the bill before they leave town at the end of the week.

The bill, which passed the Armed Services Committee in late May, provides $750 billion in total spending, including a base budget of $642.5 billion for the Pentagon and $23.3 billion for the Department of Energy’s national security programs.

The bill also gives $75.9 billion for the overseas contingency operations fund, an account that does not fall under budget cap restrictions.

Nearly 600 amendments have been filed to the bill, including on hot-button issues like military action against Iran, the U.S.-Saudi relationship and Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall.

But how many, if any, will be allowed to come up on the floor for a vote remains unclear. In recent years, the amendment process has hit a logjam because one lawmaker can block anyone else from getting an amendment vote.

Inhofe warned last week that he thought Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) could try to bog down the bill.

“We’ve been talking about this for three weeks. Remember what happened last year? Sure enough it seems to be happening again this year,” Inhofe said, referring to the standoff over amendments.

Paul hasn’t formally said that he will hold up amendments unless he gets votes on his own proposal, but said that he wants an “open” process on the Senate floor. But two of the amendments he’s introduced — one withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and a second banning indefinite detention — have emerged as flashpoints before.

“There’s a normal process, you go through like 30 hours of this, 30 hours that, you have votes. It takes about four days to get a bill through. So no one can hold a bill or block a bill,” Paul said.

But, he added, “I do believe that we should demand that there’s an open debate with amendments.”

Tags Donald Trump Elijah Cummings Jim Inhofe Kellyanne Conway Mick Mulvaney Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Patrick Leahy Rand Paul Richard Shelby Rodney Davis Roy Blunt Steven Mnuchin Zoe Lofgren
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video