House to bring controversial Homeland Security bill to floor

The House will bring the controversial Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations bill to the floor as part of a seven-bill appropriations next week.

The bill, which addresses hot-button issues such as the border wall and immigration enforcement, was one of two that weren’t considered last year, alongside the legislative branch bill.

Until last week, budget watchers were expecting the DHS bill to be left out again. But a series of progressive amendments and reforms to the spending bill cleared the way for its passage in the House. 

The decision to bring it up comes over objections from a group of four progressives known as “the squad” — Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) — who promised to vote against any bill that funded Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“Last year, the four of us voted against this CBP funding, clear eyed that CBP and ICE are rogue agencies that act to inflict harm on our communities and have a pattern of behavior of abuse and mismanagement of funds,” they said in a joint statement last week.

“This year, the House must hold CBP accountable for their egregious violation of the law by withholding any further funding and imposing additional accountability measures with real consequences,” they added.

The DHS bill does fund the agencies, though the number of ICE beds was reduced, and the funds for President Trump’s border wall were rescinded.

Surprisingly, the one bill left out of the package was the legislative branch bill, a normally innocuous piece of legislation. Last year, it was excluded because of last-minute scuffles over raising congressional salaries.

This year’s legislative branch bill included a provision that would require the Capitol to remove statues and busts of Confederate leaders.

Democrats are betting that the absence of one bill will not invite criticism over “good governance.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) are pointing to the fact that they will pass 96 percent of spending before the August recess.

The first, four-bill package will total $259.5 billion and include the bills on state and foreign operations; agriculture, rural development and the FDA; interior and environment; and military construction and veterans affairs.

The second, seven-bill package, to be considered next week, will total $1.367 trillion in spending and include the bills on commerce, justice and science; defense; energy and water development; financial service and general government; homeland security; labor, health and human services and education; and transportation and housing and urban development.

Even so, the bills coming to the floor are unlikely to become law in their current forms. Most passed committee along strict party lines, as Republicans objected to a slew of policy provisions and the addition of nearly $250 billion in emergency and off-book spending, well above agreed-upon caps.

The Senate, in the meantime, is running out of time to pass any spending bills for the 2021 fiscal year, as its appropriations committee remains mired in disagreements over additional COVID-19 spending and police reform. The House bills included both issues over GOP concerns.

With the election coming up in November, odds are rising that Congress will pass a stopgap measure to prevent a shutdown when the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. The measure, called a continuing resolution, would likely extend current funding levels into the lame-duck session or the new year, after the new Congress and a potentially new president is seated.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated which bill was left out of the package to be considered next week.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Ayanna Pressley Donald Trump Ilhan Omar Nancy Pelosi Rashida Tlaib Steny Hoyer
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