Congress unlikely to reach deal on Trump border bill before break

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he will 'temporarily hold off' on declaring Mexican drug cartels as terror organization House Judiciary Committee formally receives impeachment report Artist behind gold toilet offered to Trump sells banana duct-taped to a wall for 0,000 MORE's request for more border funding is running into another stumbling block on Capitol Hill.

The administration’s $4.5 billion spending request got a shot in the arm earlier this month when leadership in both chambers said they wanted to get a bill to the president’s desk before the July Fourth recess.

But lawmakers appear all but guaranteed to miss that deadline, with the House and Senate set to take up dueling bills. Congress is expected to start leaving town Thursday for the one-week recess and return in early July.

The two bills largely align on the amount of funding but differ on a number of key provisions, such as funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Defense Department.

ADVERTISEMENT

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyOn The Money: Economy adds 266K jobs in strong November | Lawmakers sprint to avoid shutdown | Appropriators to hold crucial talks this weekend | Trump asks Supreme Court to halt Deutsche Bank subpoenas Appropriators face crucial weekend to reach deal Trump talks spending with key GOP chairman as deadline looms MORE (R-Ala.) said a conference committee, where the House and Senate will have to reconcile their bills, was all but inevitable.

“They’ve got their own version. We’ll work our will ... and obviously we’ll go to conference, and we’ll either hash it or not,” Shelby said.

The move will kick the fight over the president’s border money into at least next month, absent an eleventh-hour decision by either the House or Senate to take up the other’s bill. As of Friday afternoon, leaders of the two Appropriations committees hadn’t opened negotiations to try to reconcile their competing pieces of legislation before they go to the floor.

Shelby, asked if they could avoid a conference committee, added that “there will be a conference unless they decide to pick up our bill.”

Trump has requested a total of $4.5 billion in emergency border funding. Roughly $3.3 billion would have gone toward increasing shelters and care for unaccompanied minors in addition to processing arrivals, while $1.1 billion was for other border operations such as expanding the number of detention beds and providing more investigation resources.

Trump administration officials have argued they urgently need new funding to respond to a crush of migrants trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border and to shore up the Department of Health and Human Services’s (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Without new funding, officials warn, the office will not be able to pay staff or grantees starting early next month.

Senators had hoped that a bipartisan deal — their bill cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee in a 30-1 vote — would help increase the odds that it would be picked up by the House and passed before the recess.

“We’re under the gun,” said 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.).

The Senate bill would provide the administration a total of $4.59 billion for the U.S.-Mexico border, including $2.88 billion for HHS. But it also includes more money for the departments of Justice, Defense and Homeland Security (DHS).

The bill also includes more than $1 billion for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and more than $200 million for ICE.

Senators on both sides touted that the plan, while not perfect, was free of the sort of poison pills that would alienate either side.

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyICE emerges as stumbling block in government funding talks Republicans raise concerns over Trump pardoning service members Lawmakers bypass embattled Mulvaney in spending talks MORE (Vt.), the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, stressed that the Senate bill was a “compromise,” meaning that “no one is going to walk away with everything they wanted.”

But signs of trouble quickly emerged, with House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyAppropriators face crucial weekend to reach deal ICE emerges as stumbling block in government funding talks Congress races to beat deadline on shutdown MORE (D-N.Y.) warning in a brief statement that House Democrats “have concerns with the Senate bill as currently written.”

The Trump administration’s border and immigration policies have become a rolling point of controversy with Democrats on Capitol Hill.

Democrats have been wary of supporting anything that could, directly or indirectly, help enforce Trump’s immigration and border policies. Border funding was pulled out of a disaster aid package amid a stalemate over immigration-related provisions, including when HHS could share information with DHS about potential sponsors for unaccompanied minors.

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyMcConnell says he's 'honored' to be WholeFoods Magazine's 2019 'Person of the Year' Overnight Energy: Protesters plan Black Friday climate strike | 'Father of EPA' dies | Democrats push EPA to abandon methane rollback Warren bill would revoke Medals of Honor for Wounded Knee massacre MORE (D-Ore.), the only lawmaker who voted against the Senate’s bill during the committee markup, said that while the Senate bill restricts Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from using the information it receives from HHS about potential sponsors to deport immigrants, the bill did not enforce the restriction.

“There’s absolutely no way to enforce that, and as long as a family knows their information is going to be given to ICE, in the Hispanic community, they don’t want to step forward as sponsors,” Merkley added.

House Democrats dropped their own funding bill on Friday and will take it to the floor this week for a vote. Though the legislation largely lines up with the Senate’s top-line figure of more than $4.5 billion, it has several differences that could complicate the path to an agreement.

Unlike the Senate bill, the House bill does not include any Defense Department funding. It also doesn’t include $61 million to address a pay shortfall or $3.7 million in overtime costs for ICE.

It also includes myriad restrictions on how funds can and cannot be used, including conditions for how children should be treated, reporting and oversight requirements.

“Given the Trump administration’s history of abuses, Congress cannot and will not provide them with a blank check to continue its immoral and dangerous immigration policies," said Rep. Rosa DeLauroRosa Luisa DeLauroPowerful House panel to hold 'Medicare for All' hearing next week Overnight Health Care: Supreme Court sets date for Louisiana abortion case | Border Patrol ignored calls to vaccinate migrants against flu | DC sues Juul Border Patrol ignored recommendation to vaccinate migrants against the flu MORE (D-Conn.), who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.

Durbin defended the Senate bill, saying they didn’t want to "appropriate a penny" to Trump’s "mass arrest policy." But he acknowledged that critics believe the Senate language doesn’t go far enough.

The House bill includes $5.2 million more than the Senate bill for ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility for background investigations and facility inspections, and it requires HHS to notify Congress within 24 hours if an unaccompanied child dies in ORR custody.

Democrats also included a provision that reinstates hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras after the administration slashed funding last week. A similar provision that would have blocked the administration’s attempt to reprogram the Central American aid was left out of the Senate bill.

So far, House Republicans haven’t signed on to the border supplemental, which was introduced by House Democrats. Unless the bill is able to pick up significant Republican support in the House, it’s all but guaranteed to go nowhere in the GOP-controlled Senate, which will vote on its own bill this week.  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills GOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties MORE (R-Ky.) has accused House Democrats of hand-wringing over additional border funding because of opposition to Trump.

“The Democratic House of Representatives has been more interested in denying this White House whatever it asks for, however necessary,” McConnell said during a floor speech last week. “It might be simply because it was this White House that was asking for it.”

A House GOP aide said that they are still reviewing the House legislation but characterized the bill as “definitely a Dem product.”