House Dems rallying behind border deal with 55 miles of barriers

House Democrats are rallying behind a package to fund border security and prevent a government shutdown, with the Democratic Caucus chairman predicting "overwhelming" support when the legislation hits the floor later this week. 

The package includes almost $1.4 billion in funding to construct new border barriers — an issue causing contention with some of the more liberal members of the caucus — but party leaders appear to have assuaged much of the concern and are expecting widespread support for the package when it reaches the floor Thursday

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"It appears to me, based on the conversation that we had today, that the overwhelming majority of the House Democratic Caucus will support this legislation," Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesPelosi: House will stay in session until agreement is reached on coronavirus relief Races heat up for House leadership posts Postmaster general earned millions from company with ties to Postal Service: report MORE (D-N.Y.), the caucus chairman, said Wednesday morning following a closed-door meeting of the Democrats in the basement of the Capitol. 

Rep. Tony CardenasAntonio (Tony) CardenasMORE (D-Calif.), who heads the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, framed the package as a victory for Democrats and said he's ready to back it.

"It's not where we want to be long-term, but I think it's progress," he said. 

"We feel good. I feel good about it."

But not everyone is on board with the border barrier funding.

Rep. Juan VargasJuan C. VargasHispanic Caucus asks for Department of Labor meeting on COVID in meatpacking plants Hispanic Caucus requests meeting with private detention center CEOs Hispanic Caucus asks Trump to rescind invitation to Mexican president MORE (D), who represents a Southern California border district, said that, for the communities most directly affected by border barriers, there is little practical distinction between a wall and a fence.

"It's a waste of money and we shouldn't give him one penny," Vargas said.

Other border Democrats remain undecided.

"The barriers are going to be an issue," said freshman Rep. Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarHispanic caucus report takes stock of accomplishments with eye toward 2021 Races heat up for House leadership posts Ahead of a coronavirus vaccine, Mexico's drug pricing to have far-reaching impacts on Americans MORE (D-Texas). "I want to know where and what they look like."

Jeffries sought to downplay any divisions within the caucus, emphasizing that the 55 miles of new barriers denied President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS reimposes UN sanctions on Iran amid increasing tensions Jeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Trump supporters chant 'Fill that seat' at North Carolina rally MORE his promised concrete wall

"We made clear from the beginning that we would not support funding for a medieval border wall that would be built from sea to shining sea. We also indicate that we were prepared to support evidence-based barriers where necessary," he said.

"The conference committee has come together and concluded that it is reasonable to support 55 miles of additional barrier in a  manner that is consistent with our evidence-based approach to find common ground and improve the security along our border."

Rep. Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkRep. Robin Kelly enters race for Democratic caucus vice chair Clark rolls out endorsements in assistant Speaker race Races heat up for House leadership posts MORE (D-Mass.), vice chairwoman of the Democratic Caucus, said the 55 miles of new barriers would be broken down into 45 miles of new fencing and 10 miles of levee walls, which can also act as flood control measures.  

The package will also include $500 million for low-income housing, and an additional $1 billion for conducting the census, Jeffries said.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse Democrats postpone vote on marijuana decriminalization bill Democrats scramble on COVID-19 relief amid division, Trump surprise The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Pence lauds Harris as 'experienced debater'; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep MORE (D-Md.) said the legislative language could be released as early as 4 p.m. Wednesday.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTrump asked Chamber of Commerce to reconsider Democratic endorsements: report The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - White House moves closer to Pelosi on virus relief bill Trump's sharp words put CDC director on hot seat MORE (R-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseHouse GOP slated to unveil agenda ahead of election House panel details 'serious' concerns around Florida, Georgia, Texas, Wisconsin elections Scalise hit with ethics complaint over doctored Barkan video MORE (R-La.) would not commit to voting for the package.

Scott Wong contributed.