Repeat of border aid battle expected with Homeland Security bill

Repeat of border aid battle expected with Homeland Security bill
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Just days after an internal revolt endangered passage of a border aid bill, House Democrats are set to replay the fight over the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations bill.

"You don't have to watch the debate,” said Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyGSA offers to brief Congress next week on presidential transition Democrats debate fate of Trump probes if Biden wins Womack to replace Graves on Financial Services subcommittee MORE (D-Ill.), an appropriator. “Just get the old C-SPAN tapes. Run them again. It's the same arguments."


This past week, the party's progressive wing forestalled a vote on a $4.6 billion supplemental bill, saying the package did not contain enough restrictions on President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden MORE's border policies.

But their victory was short-lived.

Democratic moderates successfully pushed for the House to send Trump the Senate-passed bipartisan bill that did not include the provisions sought by liberals, while also including funds for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency that some on the left have pushed to reform or even abolish.

With the battle over the border supplemental lost, progressives are now raising the same concerns over the DHS appropriations bill, one of two spending bills Democrats failed to pass in June.

“I think there's definitely going to be changes sought to it,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezTrump will soon be out of office — but polarization isn't going anywhere Trump tweets Thanksgiving criticism of NFL QBs for kneeling Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year MORE (D-N.Y.), who fought for changes in the supplemental and voted against both the House and Senate bills.

Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaBiden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency | House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally | Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally MORE (D-Calif.), a key progressive, said the process employed to strike a deal on the supplemental worked well, and hopes to see it repeated for the DHS spending bill.


"I would want to make sure that there isn't opportunity for abuse by ICE agents, that there are safeguards in terms of human rights and how we're treating kids, and that there are restrictions on the transfer of funding,” he said.

The battle comes as the 2020 Democratic primary season kicks into high gear with televised debates, where the question of how to deal with immigration has played a prominent role. Candidates like Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation Disney laying off 32,000 workers as coronavirus batters theme parks MORE (D-Mass.) took turns visiting an emergency facility in Homestead, Fla., and denouncing the conditions their for migrant children.

Julian CastroJulian CastroJulian Castro announces relaunch of 'Adios Trump!' shirts to raise money for young immigrants Sanders says Democrats should have given more speaking time to progressives Castro says DNC should have put more Latino speakers on stage from beginning MORE, a White House hopeful and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary, stood out at Wednesday’s debate for his impassioned plea to decriminalize illegal border crossings. He also said Americans should be “pissed off” following the drowning deaths of a migrant and his young daughter in the Rio Grande River.

Amid all the turmoil, some appropriators wonder whether the differences in the Democratic caucus are becoming too wide to bridge.

"I mean, you saw what happened in the border supplemental,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), an appropriator on the Homeland Security subcommittee.

“There was no money for detention beds, there was no money for deportation, but people were afraid anytime they saw the word ICE," he said, referring to the position of progressives who remained dissatisfied with the bill.

On the other hand, Cuellar argued, moderates and red state Democrats did not want to seem soft on immigration, which could hurt their reelection chances.

Democrats would have an easier time passing the bill alongside other must-pass spending bills, Cuellar said, citing the strategy used to pass the Defense spending bill in the same group as the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education bill.

“My understanding is it's going to be difficult to go by itself. Not impossible, but difficult,” Cuellar said. “Because, you know, there's some extreme positions, so the best way is to pass it is to put it as part of a package.”

But Democrats have already passed 10 of the 12 appropriations bills, leaving only the largely non-controversial Legislative Branch bill as a possible partner. That measure was separated from an earlier package when controversy erupted over whether to increase congressional pay.

One potential option would be to tie the DHS bill to the defense authorization, but it’s unusual to pair spending bills with authorizing measures.

As of now, Democrats have no plans to put the DHS bill on the floor, according to a Democratic aide, but they are intent to keep trying to win over the caucus.

"We're certainly working to make sure that the whole caucus, as we always do, recognizes it's a good bill," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzOn The Money: Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | JPMorgan: Economy will shrink in first quarter due to COVID-19 spike OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats push Biden to pick Haaland as next Interior secretary | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | Wasserman Schultz pitches climate plan in race to chair Appropriations Wasserman Schultz pitches climate plan in race to chair Appropriations MORE (D-Fla.), an appropriator.

Unlike the border supplemental, however, Democrats do not yet have to worry about their bill being overshadowed by a Senate compromise. The Senate has not introduced a single appropriations bill for fiscal year 2020.

But when it does, the DHS measure is sure to become a serious point of contention. In December, disagreements over that bill, and President Trump’s requested border wall funding, led to a 35-day shutdown, the longest in the country’s history.