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 JeffriesJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - An unusual day: Impeachment plus a trade deal 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. VargasLawmakers visit African migrants at US-Mexico border Overnight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite Bipartisan House members call on Trump to rescind Erdoğan invitation 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 EscobarMedia organization fights Trump administration over Ukraine documents FOIA The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by UANI — Sparks fly as House Judiciary debates impeachment articles Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay 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 TrumpDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Trump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn Seven years after Sandy Hook, the politics of guns has changed 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 ClarkThe Hill's Morning Report - Fallout from day one of Trump impeachment hearing 'Squad' members recruit Raskin to run for Oversight gavel House passes third bill aimed at preventing foreign election interference 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 HoyerMedia organization fights Trump administration over Ukraine documents FOIA On The Money: Trump, China announce 'Phase One' trade deal | Supreme Court takes up fight over Trump financial records | House panel schedules hearing, vote on new NAFTA deal House panel to hold hearing, vote on Trump's new NAFTA proposal MORE (D-Md.) said the legislative language could be released as early as 4 p.m. Wednesday.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyOn The Money: Trump, China announce 'Phase One' trade deal | Supreme Court takes up fight over Trump financial records | House panel schedules hearing, vote on new NAFTA deal House panel to hold hearing, vote on Trump's new NAFTA proposal House passes sweeping Pelosi bill to lower drug prices MORE (R-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseFox's Chris Wallace calls out Trump for the 'most sustained assault on freedom of the press' in US history McCarthy: I don't think there's a need to whip the impeachment vote GOP calls for minority hearing on impeachment, threatens procedural measures MORE (R-La.) would not commit to voting for the package.

Scott Wong contributed.