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Immigration

Senate Passes $4.6 Billion Border-Funding Bill after Rejecting Pelosi’s Version

An American flag flies at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 20, 2019. (Al Drago/Reuters)

The Senate on Wednesday passed a $4.6 billion spending package to alleviate the ongoing crisis at the southern border, just moments after rejecting a similar emergency-funding bill advanced by House Democrats that included restrictions on the funding of certain border-enforcement measures.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who shepherded the more restrictive spending bill through the House on Tuesday, announced her caucus’s opposition to the Senate bill before it was voted on, ensuring a contentious reconciliation process between the two chambers before a final bill can be sent to President Trump’s desk.

“They pass their bill, we respect that,” Pelosi said Wednesday. “We passed our bill, we hope they would respect that. And there are some improvements that we think can be reconciled.”

Republican lawmakers have emphasized the urgency of the border crisis in asking their Democratic colleagues to avoid a protracted reconciliation process by passing the Senate spending bill immediately, before lawmakers leave town for the one-week July 4 recess.

Addressing his colleagues on the Senate floor before the vote on Wednesday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell emphasized the bipartisan support behind the upper chamber’s spending bill, which ultimately passed 84–8.

“The House has not made much progress toward actually making a law, just more resistance theater,” McConnell said. “The Senate has a better and more bipartisan way forward.”

“It’s a productive compromise that would go a long way to begin to address the border crisis: no poison pills, just a clean bill,” he added, referencing the restrictions placed on the use of funds in the House spending bill.

The House bill, which fell 19 votes short of passage in the Senate, includes numerous humanitarian provisions related to the detention of migrants and restricts the amount of funding that can be allocated to enforcement mechanisms.

The Senate bill, meanwhile, allocates $1.3 billion to improve the Border Patrol and HHS detention facilities, which have been overwhelmed by the 144,000 asylum-seekers that arrived at the border last month, as well as $2.9 billion to improve the medical care and supervision of migrant children, many of whom, according to multiple recent reports, have been deprived of basic hygiene products and proper beds due to lack of resources.

House Democrats, particularly those in the progressive wing of the caucus, remain opposed to the Senate bill because they believe it does not do enough to ensure the humane treatment of migrants. Their bill would allow lawmakers to do unannounced checks of detention facilities, would mandate the provision of certain hygiene products, and would limit the amount of time children can be detained to just 90 days.

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