Congress gave final approval to a border funding bill totaling approximately $4.6 billion negotiated between Senate Republicans and Democrats. The final bill approved in the House by a vote of 305 to 102 included a mix of Democrats and Republicans. Many House Democrats were unhappy about the fact that, earlier in the week, a Democrats-only House bill with several key provisions was not included in the final bill. That final bill had been largely negotiated by Senate Republicans and Democrats and received 84 votes. House Democrats saw that large bipartisan Senate vote in support of the Senate version undercut their bill and any potential negotiation that never took place.

The bill provides funding to a number of agencies both in and outside of the Departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security. The biggest total goes to HHS to help address shelter care and other services. There is another $1.1 billion for Customs and Border Protection and $209 million for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and $220 million for the Department of Justice to help process immigration cases.

House Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had crafted a carefully constructed bill that kept her caucus united. When the Senate sent their own bill over with 84 votes they refused to negotiate. House Democrats had wanted some protections included in the final package. Among them: requiring Customs and Border Protection plans and standards on health and safety for children and adults in custody; setting limits of 90 days for any unaccompanied child to spend at an influx shelter unless HHS provides written notification to Congress that there is insufficient space at state-licensed facilities; and providing an additional $200 million in funding for Customs and Border Protection for a processing center pilot program, with participation by non-profit organizations.

When the Senate bill came back to the House with a presidential veto threat over the House bill and an understanding that Majority Leader McConnell would not negotiate over what the Senate had approved, Democrats in the House split. Many of the most liberal members of the Democratic caucus preferred to send the Senate bill back with amendments while some more moderate members wanted final approval before they left for the break. In the end that is what happened. The same issues are likely to come up with the debate over the 2020 annual appropriations, and if the crowding continues that re-debate could come sooner.

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About the Author:

John Sciamanna is CWLA's Vice President of Public Policy.

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