Snowstorm puts a freeze on border bill

Snowstorm puts a freeze on border bill
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Winter snowstorm “Juno” grounded nearly 6,000 flights on Monday, disrupting the travel of lawmakers returning to Washington and scrapping votes in the House.

The blizzard slamming into the Northeast shortened what was already expected to be an abbreviated week for the House, which planned to be out Thursday and Friday so Democrats could attend their annual policy retreat in Philadelphia.

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House GOP leaders pushed back legislation on human trafficking, which will now come up Tuesday, and a bill on exports of liquefied natural gas that will now see a vote Wednesday.

The Senate, meanwhile, pushed ahead with a procedural vote on the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, with a handful of senators missing the procedural step due to the storm.

A motion to end debate on the Keystone bill failed 53-39, raising the potential for a protracted fight this week over amendments.

Back in the House, GOP leaders made one major change in plans, announcing a controversial border security bill set to come to the floor on Wednesday now won’t be considered until February.

There were already questions about whether the Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul’s (R-Texas) border legislation had enough support to pass the House.

Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsAlabama Senate contender hits Sessions in new ad: 'Hillary still ain't in jail' Barr back on the hot seat McCabe: 'I don't think I will ever be free of this president and his maniacal rage' MORE (R-Ala.) and other conservative opponents had been seeking to derail the bill, saying it didn’t do enough to secure the southern border and was a poor substitute for a tougher House-passed bill to block funding for President Obama’s executive action on immigration.

“Voting for a feeble border bill would just help the Senate leadership strip out the House defund measure,” said an aide to a GOP lawmaker opposed to the McCaul bill. “GOP leaders are therefore having trouble whipping the votes. House members don’t want to help leaders across the chamber detract from their defund measure.”

The McCaul legislation would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to prevent all illegal crossings into the U.S. within five years, giving the agency billions of dollars for drones, fencing and other technology and equipment.

No decision has been made about if or when the McCaul bill will be brought back to the floor. Aides said House leadership had hoped to discuss the bill with members during votes Monday night and at the weekly GOP caucus meeting Tuesday morning.

But that schedule may be difficult to keep because the snowstorm has the potential to disrupt air travel for days.

New York City was projected to receive 18 to 24 inches of snow in what Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) warned “could be one of the top two or three largest storms in the history of this city.” He announced a citywide ban on driving beginning late Monday night.

In areas around Boston, the storm was projected to dump almost 3 feet of snow.

The worst of the storm is expected to arrive Monday night into Tuesday morning, with snow falling at a rate of 2 to 4 inches per hour.

Washington was forecast to avoid the worst of the storm, with just 1 to 3 inches of snow forecast for the area. And some lawmakers from Northeastern states made adjustments to their travel plans to ensure they would make it to D.C.

Rep. Charles Rangel, the Harlem Democrat, took an earlier Amtrak train on Monday to avoid the snowstorm, his spokeswoman said. Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteGOP fears Trump backlash in suburbs Trump makes rare trip to Clinton state, hoping to win back New Hampshire Key endorsements: A who's who in early states MORE (R-N.H.) experienced no major delays as she flew from Manchester, N.H., to Washington Monday afternoon. And upon arriving in D.C. Monday evening, Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) said he had a smooth flight as he traveled from Boise to Salt Lake City to Washington.

Regardless of whether they make it to Washington, lawmakers from the Northeast are likely to be in close contact with officials in their states and districts as the storm unfolds.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has declared a state of emergency and issued a ban on nonessential driving starting at midnight.

“We are anticipating an historic top-five snowstorm,” Baker said. “Whiteout conditions and treacherous roads will make driving anywhere extremely dangerous starting around midnight tonight and extending through most of Tuesday.”

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) likewise issued a driving ban beginning at 9 p.m.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie (R) declared a state of emergency but stopped short of issuing a mandatory travel ban, instead requesting that drivers stay off the roads.

“We’re going to be challenged, but we feel like we’re prepared, we’re ready,” he said.

Peter Sullivan and Cristina Marcos 
contributed.