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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 JayapalDemocrats snipe on policy, GOP brawls over Trump House Democrats' ambitious agenda set to run into Senate blockade Progressives push White House to overturn wage ruling MORE (D-Wash.) and Mark PocanMark William PocanDemocrats cut deals to bolster support for relief bill Progressives grumble but won't sink relief bill over fewer stimulus checks Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' 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 TrumpHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill DEA places agent seen outside Capitol during riot on leave Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee 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 OmarHouse approves George Floyd Justice in Policing Act House Democrats' ambitious agenda set to run into Senate blockade Omar introduces bill to sanction Saudi crown prince over Khashoggi killing MORE (D-Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezBipartisan bill would ban lawmakers from buying, selling stocks The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - J&J vax rollout today; third woman accuses Cuomo 'Lucky': Inside Ocasio-Cortez's endorsement of Sanders MORE (D-N.Y.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyPressley says image of Black custodial staff cleaning up Capitol after Jan. 6 riot 'haunts' her DeJoy apologizes for mail delays while defending Postal Service changes DeJoy set for grilling by House Oversight panel MORE (D-Mass.) and Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibProgressives push White House to overturn wage ruling Six ways to visualize a divided America Jamaal Bowman's mother dies of COVID-19: 'I share her legacy with all of you' 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 PelosiOn The Money: Democrats deals to bolster support for relief bill | Biden tries to keep Democrats together | Retailers fear a return of the mask wars Here's who Biden is now considering for budget chief Biden urges Democrats to advocate for rescue package 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.