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 QuigleyLawmakers point to entitlements when asked about deficits Mueller Day falls flat Mueller on Trump's WikiLeaks embrace: 'Problematic is an understatement' 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 TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future 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-CortezThe Memo: Dangers loom for Trump on immigration Students retreating from politics as campuses become progressive playgrounds Former GOP Rep. Jason Lewis says he'll challenge Tina Smith in Minnesota MORE (D-N.Y.), who fought for changes in the supplemental and voted against both the House and Senate bills.

Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaKing incites furor with abortion, rape and incest remarks San Jose mayor proposes mandatory liability insurance for gun owners Democrats give cold shoulder to Warren wealth tax 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 Ann WarrenSteyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE (D-Mass.) took turns visiting an emergency facility in Homestead, Fla., and denouncing the conditions their for migrant children.

Julian CastroJulian CastroHarris to appear in CNN climate town hall after backlash Castro qualifies for next Democratic primary debates Castro releases animal welfare plan as part of presidential campaign 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 SchultzParkland father: Twitter did not suspend users who harassed me using name of daughter's killer Hillicon Valley: Senate Intel releases election security report | GOP blocks votes on election security bills | Gabbard sues Google over alleged censorship | Barr meets state AGs on tech antitrust concerns House committee leader questions Trump on efforts to secure elections 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.