Senate

Senate passes $4.5B border bill, setting up fight with House

The Senate on Wednesday passed legislation to give President Trump billions of dollars in new border funding, setting up a clash with House Democrats, who passed their own version of the bill earlier this week. 

Senators voted 84-8 on their $4.5 billion bill, which includes nearly $3 billion in humanitarian aid. 

{mosads}Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) voted against the bill.

Lawmakers had hoped to get a bill to Trump’s desk before they leave for the July 4 recess. Leadership indicated after the Senate’s vote that they would be talking about how to reconcile their bills, but absent an eleventh hour agreement the border funding is stalled until after the break.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said he expected staff discussions and talks between the “four corners,” leadership in both parties and both chambers, would start “soon.”

“The House bill has got a lot of provisions that would not be conducive to a quick agreement,” Shelby added. “We’ll see if the corners fit; I hope they fit.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) added that he thought leadership and the White House could hold an “informal conference,” that could potentially let them get a deal before lawmakers leave town.

“It would be an informal conference, maybe of the four appropriators or maybe of the four leaders,” he said. “As soon as possible we should have it.”

Though the House and Senate largely align on the top line figure for their border bill, they are divided over several hot button policy issues including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Senate Republicans have indicated that they don’t want to go to conference, despite the political and policy differences.

{mossecondads}Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, told reporters both chambers going to conference, where they would hash out their differences, wasn’t a “viable” option.

“The House knows that they can’t get a signature on their bill, and most of what they want is in our bill and ours is a bipartisan bill,” Thune said.

Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), a member of GOP leadership, called the House bill “inadequate,” adding, “if people are sincere … then I don’t know why they would want to delay this.”

But House Democrats have shut down calls to take up and pass the Senate bill as it’s currently written, with leadership arguing they have some changes they want in the final bill.

House Democrats passed their own border legislation Tuesday after days of public wrangling among the caucus about the details of the 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 includes myriad restrictions on how funds can and cannot be used and reinstates hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras after the administration slashed funding last week.

As part of an effort to win over more progressive support, House Democrats added a number of last minute provisions to their bill, including requiring Customs and Border Protection to enact health standards for individuals in custody, including implementing standards for both adults and children for “medical emergencies; nutrition, hygiene, and facilities; and personnel training.”

But the House bill cannot pass the Senate and has gotten a veto threat from the White House. To drive home the message, the Senate voted on the House-passed bill but it failed in an 37-55 vote.

The Senate also rejected an effort by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to require more than $4.5 billion in foreign assistance cuts to pay for the border legislation.

The White House’s request included $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.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar pleaded with Congress during a Fox News interview earlier this month to pass new funding.

“We are running out of money. We are functionally out of space,” he said. “Congress has got to pass a supplemental appropriation that President Trump has asked for.” 

But Congress appears poised to miss that deadline absent a late U-turn by House Democrats or a quick agreement by leadership to make changes to the Senate bill.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters on Wednesday that she would not move the Senate bill.

“They passed their bill, we respect that. We passed our bill, we hope they will respect that,” Pelosi said.

Schumer backed up Pelosi saying that he prefers the Senate bill, but if the Senate bill passes “there should be a quick conference.”

He said that Pelosi had asked for four changes, that he said were reasonable.

“They’re basic checks so that DHS [the Department of Homeland Security] doesn’t do the kinds of things that no one wants to see them do,” Schumer said, while declining to discuss specifics.

Shelby warned that the differences between the two bills were significant, but that he wanted to see the details of what Pelosi is asking for.

“We heard it was a few,” he said, “and then we were shown it was many.”

Updated at 5:26 p.m.

Tags Bob Menendez Charles Schumer Chris Van Hollen Donald Trump Ed Markey Government shutdown Jeff Merkley John Cornyn John Thune Mazie Hirono Mike Lee Nancy Pelosi Patrick Leahy Rand Paul Richard Shelby Robert Menendez Ron Wyden
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