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Progressive Caucus leaders demand Democrats pull homeland security bill

Progressive Caucus leaders demand Democrats pull homeland security bill
© Bonnie Cash

The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) on Wednesday called on Democratic House leadership to pull the controversial homeland security appropriations bill from consideration on the House floor next week.

"Without the inclusion of additional necessary reforms, we believe that the Democratic Leadership should not attempt to pass Homeland Security funding by tying it to essential coronavirus research, education, and housing funding," CPC co-chairs Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalInequality of student loan debt underscores possible Biden policy shift Biden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks MORE (D-Wash.) and Mark PocanMark William PocanCapitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview Katherine Clark secures No. 4 leadership spot for House Democrats Democrats to determine leaders after disappointing election MORE (D-Wis.) said in a joint statement.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill — which deals with sticky issues such as immigration, border protection and President TrumpDonald John TrumpGeraldo Rivera on Trump sowing election result doubts: 'Enough is enough now' Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race Scott Atlas resigns as coronavirus adviser to Trump MORE's wall — has been a thorn in the side of Democratic leadership since it won the majority.

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Centrist Democrats, who helped fuel the blue wave in 2018 that handed Democrats the majority, have been keen to show a moderate approach to the issue, while some progressives have been calling to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). 

Last year, Democrats simply opted not to bring the DHS bill to the floor when approving the appropriations bills for 2020.

In a turnaround, Democrats included the DHS bill in a seven-bill package of appropriations, which is expected to pass next week, even as key progressives voiced their opposition to the bill. The decision to include the bill was a sign of confidence that Democrats could hold enough of their caucus together to pass the package without GOP support. 

Ahead of the decision, Reps. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarMeet the three Democrats who could lead foreign affairs in the House Biden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far GOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' MORE (D-Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezModerate Democrats: Everyone's older siblings Ocasio-Cortez raises 0K to fight food and housing insecurity during video game battle Club for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout MORE (D-N.Y.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyGOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' Pelosi faces caucus divisions in Biden era Record number of Black women elected to Congress in 2020 MORE (D-Mass.) and Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibBiden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks GOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' MORE (D-Mich.), a group of prominent progressives sometimes referred to as "the squad," issued a joint statement saying that "the House must hold CBP accountable for their egregious violation of the law by withholding any further funding and imposing additional accountability measures with real consequences." 

But Wednesday's letter from the co-chairs of the CPC, which represents nearly 100 members, could present a more significant problem than "the squad," which Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases House Democrats urge congressional leaders to support .1B budget for IRS Bipartisan Senate group holding coronavirus relief talks amid stalemate MORE (D-Calif.) has noted controls only four votes.

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In their statement, Pocan and Jayapal referenced the Trump administration's use of federal forces to tackle protesters in cities over the objections of local leaders. 

"Across the nation, protestors have been targeted by secret police and denied their civil liberties," they said.

"The occupation of U.S. cities including Portland, OR and Seattle, WA by unidentified paramilitary agents is a chilling escalation from the Department of Homeland Security, which the Trump Administration has deputized to carry out xenophobic, unconstitutional attacks on human rights and civil liberties," they continued.

The statement marks a shift for Pocan, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee and voted to advance the bill in committee last week.

Proponents of the bill note that it gained support for drastically limiting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention beds and rescinding funds for the wall.

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"The Homeland Security bill contains strong progressive provisions that dramatically curb ICE detention, protect [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival] recipients and [Temporary Protected Status] holders, block many of President Trump’s immigration policies, and prevent border wall construction," said House Appropriations Committee spokesperson Evan Hollander in a statement.

"The House Democratic Caucus overwhelmingly supports those provisions, and we expect Members to make the bill even better next week with amendments that curb DHS agencies even further so that the Trump administration’s shameful tactics in Portland never happen again," he added.

Meanwhile, infighting in the Senate Appropriations Committee has indefinitely delayed the introduction and markup of any 2021 spending bills.

Appropriators are increasingly convinced that a stopgap funding measure will be necessary to prevent a shutdown when the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

Updated at 4:37 p.m.