A House panel on Wednesday approved the Homeland Security appropriations bill, which includes $5 billion in funding for President Trump’s controversial border wall.
The House Appropriations Committee voted 29-22 along party lines to send the bill to the full House, wrapping up the committee’s work for the 2019 fiscal year.
The bill provided $51.4 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a $3.7 billion increase over 2018 levels. It includes $7.2 billion funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), funds for hiring 400 new U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and $1.9 billion for cybersecurity efforts.
“It is outrageous that House Republicans have prioritized unnecessary funds for President Trump’s border wall and cruel immigration policies rather than fighting terrorism through substantial new investments in first responder grants or growing the economy and creating jobs through job training, making college more affordable, or research and development initiatives,” said Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y), the top Democrat on the committee.
Democratic attempts to block or redesignate the $5 billion included to fund 200 miles worth of wall along the United States’s southern border fell flat in the face of Republican opposition.
Trump has pushed for $25 billion for the wall, but the $5 billion down payment was well above the $1.6 billion in funding included in the Senate’s version of the bill, which only allowed for the money to be used for reinforcing existing barriers.
“Globalization, cybersecurity, and terrorism are changing our way of life and we need to change with it. This bill fully supports our men and women on the frontline who work tirelessly to keep us safe. The bill also provides the necessary funding for critical technology and physical barriers to secure our borders,” said committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.).
During the markup, the House panel also adopted several amendments on high-profile political issues.
It approved an amendment by Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) pushing back on Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s June decision to deny asylum
to victims of domestic abuse and gang violence.
“The precedent was established in 2014 that those fleeing gang violence and domestic violence would, under certain circumstances, be eligible for a credible fear claim,” Price said, vowing not to let the “draconian measure” stand.
“There’s no question that what Attorney General Sessions has done would close the door almost completely,” he added.
The Appropriations Committee also approved an amendment limiting the use of shackles on pregnant women detained by immigration and Border Patrol officials.
“ICE has recently reported it has detained more than 500 pregnant women since December, and they are using shackling of pregnant women,” said Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), the amendment’s sponsor.
She cited American Medical Association recommendations against shackling pregnant women in their second or third trimester because it can increase chances of harming the fetus.
It also approved an amendment protecting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients that are active duty military or veterans from deportation. DACA was an Obama-era policy protecting certain immigrants who came to the country illegally as children.
The bill still has several obstacles to overcome before becoming law. It must pass on the House floor, and then the House must iron out differences with the Senate version, which provides some $300 million less in overall funding and distributes its appropriations differently.
Congress has not yet conferenced any of the 12 appropriations bills for 2019 and sent them to Trump for his signature.
Government funding runs out after Sept. 30, and in the absence of new funding bills, a stopgap measure will be necessary to keep the government running.
Trump has vowed to veto any stopgap measures that do not fund his border wall.
Wednesday’s hearing marked Frelinghuysen’s fnal markup as chairman before he retires this fall.
Committee members spent the first hour of the hearing offering praise to the outgoing congressman.