GOP senator voices concern about Trump order, hasn't decided whether he'll back it
Senate Democrats block resolution supporting ICE
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 Daines (R-Mont.) asked for unanimous consent to pass the resolution, introduced by Sen. John Kennedy (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.
But Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) objected and instead asked for consent to pass legislation from Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) that would "reunite families separated at or near ports of entry" as a result of President Trump'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 Durbin (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 McConnell (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 Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Elizabeth Warren (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 Schumer (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.