Pelosi cites 'necessary' new laws to tackle border crisis

Pelosi cites 'necessary' new laws to tackle border crisis
© Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Democrats bicker over strategy on impeachment Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi set to unveil drug price plan | Abortion rate in US hits lowest level since Roe v. Wade | Dems threaten to subpoena Juul MORE (D-Calif.) on Monday suggested the House will soon move a series of bills designed to protect migrant kids — proposals similar to those that Congress declined to adopt late last month. 

In a letter to her fellow Democrats, Pelosi decried the medical and sanitary conditions facing the wave of migrants being held at the southern border, adding that "legislation is necessary" to fix the problems. 

The letter comes just days after Pelosi and House Democrats, after pressing for enhanced migrant protections in a $4.6 billion border spending bill, caved to the demands of more moderate lawmakers and passed the Senate's version of the package, championed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers run into major speed bumps on spending bills Budowsky: Donald, Boris, Bibi — The right in retreat Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet MORE (R-Ky.). 

Pelosi has urged President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report MORE to adopt the additional protections unilaterally. But her latest message suggests she's not holding her breath for the administration to act on its own to ensure that those placed in federal custody after arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border have ready access to medical treatment, hygiene products and other simple necessities.

"Whether or not the President responds to our request to improve medical care standards for the health and safety of children, and while Senator McConnell still refuses to help the children suffering in these deplorable conditions, we must lead a Battle Cry across America to protect the children," Pelosi wrote in the "Dear Colleague" letter. 

The letter also arrives as tensions flare between the liberal and moderate wings of the Democratic caucus over the correct approach to the border crisis. 

Left-leaning lawmakers, distrustful of the administration's handling of migrants amid reports of horrific conditions in detention facilities, had demanded explicit stipulations governing how the border money could be spent. Centrists, on the other hand, were wary that a prolonged standoff with McConnell and Senate Republicans would force Congress home for the July Fourth recess without addressing the crisis at all, leaving them open to campaign attacks.

Backed up against the holiday deadline, Pelosi reluctantly moved the Senate bill, to the howls of progressives on and off Capitol Hill. And over the weekend, she stirred the controversy further in an interview with The New York Times, dismissing the concerns of a handful of liberal freshmen who've criticized her border strategy.

“All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world,” Pelosi told the Times. “But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.”

The comments drew a quick rebuke from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez mocks 'White House ethics' in Instagram post Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi set to unveil drug price plan | Abortion rate in US hits lowest level since Roe v. Wade | Dems threaten to subpoena Juul Kennedy to challenge Markey in Senate primary MORE (D-N.Y.), who was among the four freshmen who opposed any new funding for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Based on that opposition, those lawmakers had voted against even the most liberal version of the House border spending bill.

"That public 'whatever' is called public sentiment," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

Pelosi on Monday outlined several specific proposals that seem designed to ease the tensions and assuage the liberal wing. They include legislation, sponsored by Rep. Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarGun epidemic is personal for lawmakers touched by violence House holds moment of silence for El Paso victims House Republicans want details on Democrats' trips to Mexico MORE (D-Texas), to bolster training for ICE officials. Another bill, championed by Rep. Raul RuizRaul RuizDemocrat Raul Ruiz challenged by Republican with the same name in California race House to vote on stopgap spending measure to prevent shutdown House leaves for six-week August recess MORE (D-Calif.), would establish explicit new standards for the medical care of detained migrants. Yet another would create a pilot program designed to improve coordination between the various agencies charged with processing — and caring for — migrants as their cases are sorted. 

"Legislation is necessary, and Members visiting the border have made several suggestions as we move forward," Pelosi wrote. 

She did not say when the various bills might reach the floor.