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House Democrats backtrack, will pull Homeland Security bill

House Democrats backtrack, will pull Homeland Security bill
© Greg Nash

House Democrats will pull the homeland security spending bill from a seven-bill spending package to be considered on the floor this week.

The bill's exclusion will mean Democrats, for the second year in a row, will only pass 10 of the 12 annual spending bills on the floor. The other bill absent from consideration both years is the legislative branch bill, which faces controversy over increases in congressional pay.

The decision to include the controversial bill in the first place was seen as a sign of confidence that clashes between the party's centrists and progressives could be avoided. The bill deals with hot-button issues such as immigration, border patrol and President TrumpDonald TrumpThe Memo: The Obamas unbound, on race Iran says onus is on US to rejoin nuclear deal on third anniversary of withdrawal Assaults on Roe v Wade increasing MORE's wall.

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This year's bill would have cut the number of detention beds available to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and rescinded already-approved funds for the wall.

But progressives have come out in strong criticism of the bill, and centrists facing tough reelection races have grown concerned that a vote on the bill would haunt them come November.

"Front-line members raised serious concerns that the homeland bill was a tough vote in swing districts because of its progressive provisions," a Democratic House aide said.

"At the end of the day, front-liners are our majority makers and there is no reason to force them to take a tough vote when we can negotiate with the Senate using the Appropriations-passed bill," the aide added.

The aide noted that several progressives were expected to vote against the package regardless of whether homeland security was included, given other issues such as increased defense spending and a long-standing provision that blocks federal funds from being used for abortions.

Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalNurses union lobbies Congress on health care bills during National Nurses Week White House raises refugee cap to 62,500 The Hill's Morning Report - Biden launches blitz for jobs plan with 'thank you, Georgia' MORE (D-Wash.) and Mark PocanMark William PocanProgressives divided over efforts to repeal SALT cap Left feels empowered after Biden backtracks on refugees NIH reverses Trump administration's ban on fetal tissue research MORE (D-Wis.), who called on House leaders to remove the bill from the package last week, praised the move.

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"The Progressive Caucus has repeatedly articulated our concerns with the misuse of DHS funds and the agency’s role in orchestrating the detention of immigrants and separation of families. We’ve also raised our serious concerns with DHS’s recent actions in Portland, where secret police have been deputized to target and harass protestors, and the deployment of DHS [Department of Homeland Security] officers to cities across the country, including Seattle and Chicago," they wrote.

“We need a full overhaul of DHS to bring real accountability, prohibit the unconstitutional occupation of our cities, protect the rights of immigrants in DHS custody, and defend civil liberties," they added.

Before the recent use of federal forces to quell protests over the objections of local leaders, Pocan, an appropriator, had voted to advance the bill twice.

Without homeland security in the mix, the remaining six bills in the spending package will include defense; commerce, justice and science; energy and water development; financial service and general government; labor, health and human services, and education; and transportation and housing and urban development.

The package's price tag will drop from $1.367 trillion to about $1.316 trillion.

But regardless of what bills pass through the lower chamber, the Senate seems unlikely to take up any spending bills before the new fiscal year starts on Oct. 1. Democrats and Republicans on the committee have clashed over whether to include additional emergency spending for COVID-19 and police reform, which has led to a deadlock.

As a result, a stopgap measure is an increasingly likely option to avoid a government shutdown just weeks ahead of the November elections.

Updated at 3:35 p.m.