The Democrat-led US House has grudgingly voted to approve an emergency $4.6 billion border funding bill after the Republican-majority Senate threatened to table any amended version of the measure.
“The children come first. At the end of the day, we have to make sure that the resources needed to protect the children are available,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said in a letter on Thursday prior to the vote, vowing to “reluctantly pass the Senate bill” lest “the children” go without aid one second longer.
Pelosi had initially promised not to accept the bill approved on Wednesday by the Republican-led Senate, with Democrats arguing it lacked sufficient protections for migrant children. A lengthy conversation with Vice President Mike Pence produced an administrative compromise of sorts, however: Congress will be notified within 24 hours if a child dies in custody, and no child will be kept in “emergency facilities” for more than 90 days.
The Senate version of the bill ultimately passed 305-102 in the House, with 95 Democrats expressing their dissatisfaction with the compromise. The bill allots $2.88 billion to Health and Human Services for safe shelter and care for detained children, $1.1 billion to Customs and Border Protection to build more processing facilities, $220 million to the Justice Department to process immigration cases and equip US Marshals at detention facilities, and $145 million for various military operations on the border.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) warned disobedient Democrats that if they attempted to “throw a far-left partisan wrench into the whole thing” by adding amendments, he would merely table the bill, allowing Congress to go into its July 4 recess with no aid passed at all – hardly an option for Democrats, who had spent the last week in a frenzy over the dire plight of migrant children at the border.
The original House bill had included stricter health and safety standards for migrant detention facilities, time limits for holding unaccompanied children, and no funding for border enforcement activities whatsoever. Even then, a handful of Democrats had refused to vote for it, inspired to new heights of strident opposition by a photograph of a migrant man and child floating face-down in the Rio Grande.
McConnell dismissed the House version as “a go-nowhere proposal filled with poison-pill riders which the president would veto.” The Senate agreed, with 55 senators voting against it and only 37 in favor.
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