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 QuigleyIn testimony, Dems see an ambassador scorned, while GOP defends Trump Ex-Ukraine ambassador arrives to give testimony Tax-return whistleblower in spotlight amid impeachment fight MORE (D-Ill.), an appropriator. “Just get the old C-SPAN tapes. Run them again. It's the same arguments."

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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 TrumpGOP congressman slams Trump over report that U.S. bombed former anti-ISIS coalition headquarters US to restore 'targeted assistance' to Central American countries after migration deal Trump says lawmakers should censure Schiff 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-CortezOcasio-Cortez, Thunberg, Rapinoe make BBC's 100 most inspiring women of 2019 Former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey endorses Biden Democratic strategist on Sanders debate performance: 'I just think he might've topped out' MORE (D-N.Y.), who fought for changes in the supplemental and voted against both the House and Senate bills.

Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaCongress set for showdown with Trump over Kurds Is Congress too afraid to fight Big Pharma? Democrats probing whether groups booked Trump hotel rooms to earn president's favor: report 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.

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"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 WarrenButtigieg tweeted support for 'Medicare for All' in 2018 Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — House Dems change drug pricing bill to address progressive concerns | Top Republican rejects Dem proposal on surprise medical bills | Vaping group launches Fox News ad blitz Hillicon Valley: FCC approves T-Mobile-Sprint merger | Dems wrangle over breaking up Big Tech at debate | Critics pounce as Facebook's Libra stumbles | Zuckerberg to be interviewed by Fox News | Twitter details rules for political figures' tweets MORE (D-Mass.) took turns visiting an emergency facility in Homestead, Fla., and denouncing the conditions their for migrant children.

Julian CastroJulian Castro2020 Democrats recognize Pronouns Day Third-quarter fundraising sets Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg apart John Kerry calls out lack of climate questions at debate 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 SchultzDeLauro enters race to succeed Lowey as Appropriations chief Democrats walk tightrope in fight over Trump wall funds Parkland father: Twitter did not suspend users who harassed me using name of daughter's killer 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.