Trump's border funding comes back from the dead

Trump's border funding comes back from the dead
© Getty Images

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders urges impeachment trial 'quickly' in the Senate US sending 20,000 troops to Europe for largest exercises since Cold War Barr criticizes FBI, says it's possible agents acted in 'bad faith' in Trump probe MORE’s request for $4.5 billion in emergency funding for the border is getting a much-needed jolt of momentum in Congress.

Appropriators are drafting legislation that would provide billions in humanitarian aid for the border, marking the first sign of movement on the issue since funding was yanked from a disaster aid package.

ADVERTISEMENT

While it faces plenty of hurdles ahead, the package’s chances of making it to Trump’s desk by the end of the month suddenly look more possible.

“Hopefully the House Democrats will be amenable to working with us to get that done,” said Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneLighthizer starts GOP charm offensive on Trump trade deal GOP senators worry Trump made 'problematic' concessions in trade deal On The Money: White House, Dems edge closer to trade deal | GOP worries about Trump concessions | DOJ argues Congress can't sue Trump on emoluments | Former Fed chief Volcker dies MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican.

“It should have been in the last supplemental bill, it wasn’t because they objected,” he said, referring to Democrats. “They made it very difficult.”

The Senate appears likely to move first, with Republicans saying they will take up legislation similar to the administration’s $4.5 billion request in the Appropriations Committee next week.

The White House’s request includes $3.3 billion for humanitarian aid, which the administration says would be used to increase shelters and care for unaccompanied minors, in addition to processing arrivals. They’ve also asked for roughly $1.1 billion for other border operations like expanding the number of detention beds and providing more investigation resources.

Republicans are raising pressure on Democrats to back the bill. Republicans will need at least seven Democrats to reach the 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster on the Senate floor.

Democratic leaders say the caucus backs providing additional humanitarian aid for the U.S.-Mexico border, including shoring up a Health and Human Services (HHS) office that is responsible for unaccompanied minors detained along the border and on the verge of running out of funding.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerKrystal Ball: Is this how Bernie Sanders will break the establishment? TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments MORE (D-N.Y.) told reporters during a weekly press conference that humanitarian aid was the “sweet spot” for any deal to be had on Capitol Hill.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We want to move a package of that $4.5 [billion], about $3.3, $3.4 is from HHS, the ORR — the Office of Refugee Resettlement. We are all for that,” Schumer said.

But Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyPelosi gets standing ovation at Kennedy Center Honors Trump brings pardoned soldiers on stage at Florida fundraiser: report ICE emerges as stumbling block in government funding talks MORE (D-Vt.) says he hasn’t seen proposed language from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by UANI — House Dems charge Trump with abuse, obstruction of Congress in impeachment articles Senate must take up Voting Rights Advancement Act without delay Krystal Ball: Is this how Bernie Sanders will break the establishment? MORE (R-Ky.) or Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyDoug Loverro's job is to restore American spaceflight to the ISS and the moon Little progress as spending talks push past weekend This week: House impeachment inquiry hits crucial stretch MORE (R-Ala.), leaving Democrats in the dark about what bill will be put forward.

Democrats also warn that the White House could throw a curveball into any negotiations, noting the administration has previously been a stumbling block for talks on Capitol Hill.

“The trouble is, their position keeps changing. Most of this border stuff we could have passed weeks ago, but the Republicans kept saying ‘no’ because they kept getting conflicting words from the White House,” Leahy said, asked about when he expects to see language on the border bill.

Thune predicted that a GOP proposal would “certainly start” with a list of items the administration provided lawmakers about what it wants in a package. He added that McConnell discussed the issue with Vice President Pence, who attended Tuesday’s closed-door GOP lunch.

The border money got yanked out of the disaster aid bill after a stalemate over immigration-related provisions including when HHS could share information with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) about potential sponsors for unaccompanied minors.

Asked how lawmakers can avoid a similar setback, Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSupreme Court poised to hear first major gun case in a decade Protecting the future of student data privacy: The time to act is now Overnight Health Care: Crunch time for Congress on surprise medical bills | CDC confirms 47 vaping-related deaths | Massachusetts passes flavored tobacco, vaping products ban MORE (D-Ill.) quipped, “Keep the president out of the Senate Republican caucus lunch.”

Though both sides say they want to pass humanitarian aid for the border, Trump’s proposal included some requests, like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) funding, that are non-starters for Democrats.

Shelby said his office is still drafting legislation, which he pledged to share with Democrats as soon as it’s finished. He stressed that he wanted a proposal to be “clean” humanitarian aid, which could help avoid a partisan fight.

House Democrats say they’ve been in touch with Republicans and administration officials as they’ve tried to draft a supplemental bill to address the border.

“I am assured that we will soon be moving on a supplemental appropriations bill to address the immediate challenges. Bipartisan, bicameral cooperation will be essential to ensure the badly needed additional funds are provided and used effectively and humanely,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-AllardLucille Roybal-AllardICE emerges as stumbling block in government funding talks Bicameral group of Democrats introduces bill to protect immigrant laborers Lawmakers skeptical of progress on spending deal as wall battle looms MORE (D-Calif.), the chair of the House Appropriations’s DHS subcommittee, said during a markup this week.

A House Democratic aide said Wednesday that they had been negotiating “in good faith” with Republicans about humanitarian aid for the border that also protected “the rights and dignity of migrants.”

“We are continuing to have important discussions in our Caucus on this issue, and hope to work with the Senate to complete a bicameral, bipartisan humanitarian supplemental by the July 4 district work period,” the aide added.

But a border package could face a tougher slog in the House, where progressives are wary of supporting anything that could, directly or indirectly, help enforce Trump’s immigration and border policies.

Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroPelosi faces tough choices on impeachment managers Hillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills Minority lawmakers call out Google for hiring former Trump DHS official MORE (D-Texas), who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said he is still waiting to see the final language for the supplemental, but warned against including provisions that increased the number of detention beds.

“I can just generally say that we want to support humanitarian efforts, but we want to make investments in things that speed up the process,” he said. “What we don’t want to do is to create more permanent ICE beds or even ORR beds, so that’s what we’re watching for.”

Niv Elis and Rafael Bernal contributed.