Senate Democrats block resolution supporting ICE

Senate Democrats block resolution supporting ICE
© Greg Nash

A GOP Senate resolution supporting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — and knocking progressives' call to "abolish" it — was blocked by Democrats on Wednesday shortly after a similar measure was approved by the House. 

Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesWarren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack Daines to introduce bill awarding Congressional Gold Medal to troops killed in Afghanistan Powell reappointment to Fed chair backed by Yellen: report MORE (R-Mont.) asked for unanimous consent to pass the resolution, introduced by Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.), offering Senate support for ICE officials, members of the military and law enforcement.

"It is outrageous. It is irresponsible to call for abolishing one of our country's most critical security measures. Abolishing ICE would give terrorists, gang members, drug dealers and other criminals a field day," Daines said.

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But Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — Senate Finance chair backs budget action on fossil fuel subsidies Top Democrat says he'll push to address fossil fuel tax breaks in spending bill Democrats revive filibuster fight over voting rights bill MORE (D-Ore.) objected and instead asked for consent to pass legislation from Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden taps big bank skeptic to for top regulatory post Harris unveils 0M commitment to new global health fund Senate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam MORE (D-Calif.) that would "reunite families separated at or near ports of entry" as a result of President TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE’s “zero tolerance” prosecution of those who cross the southern border illegally.

Daines, in turn, objected to the request. 

"This moment hardly seems the time for the Senate to engage in debating rhetorical phrases or praise for the Immigration and Custom Enforcement agency when that agency, better known as ICE, is deeply mired in the scandal of separating children from their parents," Merkley said. 

Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinSchumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Democrats surprised, caught off guard by 'framework' deal Senate panel advances antitrust bill that eyes Google, Facebook MORE (D-Ill.) added that the GOP resolution would support ICE "in all its functions." 

"Well, I can just tell you, I don't join in that resolution. I specifically don't join in it when it comes to the president's zero tolerance policy," he said. 

The move to block the Senate GOP resolution came as House Republicans passed their own resolution supporting ICE. 

The House measure was approved in a 244-35 vote, with 18 Democrats voting to back ICE and 34 voting against the resolution. The majority of Democrats in the chamber voted “present” at the urging of party leadership.

Calls to eliminate ICE, which was formed in 2003, have rocketed into the national spotlight after the president's zero tolerance immigration policy resulted in the separation of immigrant families detained along the border. 

Trump signed an executive order allowing families to stay together, but some progressives have seized on the issue, with protesters publicly confronting high-profile administration officials and lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse passes standalone bill to provide B for Israel's Iron Dome Pelosi vows to avert government shutdown McConnell calls Trump a 'fading brand' in Woodward-Costa book MORE (R-K). 

Progressive House candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made abolishing ICE part of her campaign platform in her shocking defeat of Rep. Joseph Crowley (D) in last month’s primary in New York. And some of the party’s potential 2020 presidential hopefuls, including Sens. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Gillibrand11 senators urge House to pass .5T package before infrastructure bill Hochul tells Facebook to 'clean up the act' on abortion misinformation after Texas law Democratic senators request probe into Amazon's treatment of pregnant employees MORE (N.Y.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Warren11 senators urge House to pass .5T package before infrastructure bill Senate Democrats seeking information from SPACs, questioning 'misaligned incentives' UN secretary-general blasts space tourism MORE (Mass.), have rallied behind the effort to dismantle ICE.

But most Senate Democrats have stopped short of embracing calls to nix the agency. Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats' do-or-die moment Biden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan Progressives push for fossil subsidy repeal in spending bill MORE (D-N.Y.) told reporters following Ocasio-Cortez’s primary victory that he believed ICE should be reformed instead.

An Economist–YouGov poll conducted earlier this month found that 29 percent of U.S. adults support abolishing ICE, while 46 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of liberals said they would back that effort.