Speaker (D-Calif.), under pressure from progressives, announced Wednesday evening that the House will vote to amend a Senate-passed bipartisan bill to provide $4.5 billion in resources for agencies handling the influx of migrants at the southern border.
House Democrats are insisting that any final measure include stricter “guardrails” to ensure adequate treatment of migrants at holding facilities.
Pelosi said in a statement Wednesday night that the House Rules Committee, which determines how legislation is considered on the floor, will report out an amendment Thursday morning that ensures health standards for facilities holding migrants at the border and limits the number of days children can spend in influx facilities.
Democrats are also demanding that any deaths of migrant children be reported within 24 hours and that lawmakers don’t need advance notice to visit a facility.
“For the children, we must do the best we can,” Pelosi said in a statement. “We pray that the White House and the Senate will join us in embracing the children and meeting their needs.”
Lawmakers are facing a time crunch to reach a bipartisan deal that would be willing to sign into law, given that Congress is scheduled to be in recess next week. The Trump administration has said that funding may run out by early July for the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services that is responsible for providing care to unaccompanied minors who arrive at the U.S. border.
Earlier Wednesday, the Senate voted 84-8 to pass its own measure, which is bipartisan but doesn’t go as far as House Democrats would like to ensure humanitarian standards at migrant holding facilities.
The Senate vote came a day after House Democrats passed their own measure, which included stricter “guardrails” to ensure adequate treatment of migrants at holding facilities following public outrage over overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. The Senate rejected the House-passed bill in a 37-55 vote Wednesday.
When asked Wednesday if the House would take up the bipartisan version passed by the Senate, Pelosi said simply, “No.”
“They passed their bill. We respect that. We passed our bill. We’d hope they would respect that,” Pelosi said. “And, there are some improvements that we think can be reconciled.”
House Democratic leaders and members of the House Appropriations Committee huddled in Pelosi’s office following the Senate vote to discuss how to push for changes instead of simply clearing the upper chamber’s bill.
“I think we had some very good provisions in our bill that I think could easily be included in the Senate bill. And that’s being discussed,” House Majority Leader (D-Md.) said as he left Pelosi’s office.
Senate Majority Leader (R-Ky.) announced that the Senate will be in for a rare Friday session to vote on a defense bill. That also buys some time for the House, which is currently scheduled to adjourn on Thursday.
Senate Minority Leader (D-N.Y) backed up Pelosi, saying that the House Democrats’ proposal is “much better.” But he also said that “there should be a quick conference” with the Senate bill.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman (D-N.Y.) vowed that lawmakers wouldn’t leave Washington for the recess without figuring out a path forward on providing resources at the southern border.
“The House will not leave until we resolve the situation at the border. And we look forward to finding common ground with the Senate, as well as the president,” Jeffries said after leaving the meeting in Pelosi’s office.
Progressive and Hispanic lawmakers in the House had sought changes that would require Customs and Border Protection to establish health standards for children and adults in custody.
The House bill that passed on Tuesday would ensure that shelters run by contractors meet established health conditions within six months or else their government contracts will end — a key provision sought by progressives. It also requires the Trump administration to use allotted funding for aid to Central American countries, from which many of the migrants are fleeing.
The Senate bill also includes funding for overtime and back pay for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers that’s not allotted in the House version. The legislation advanced by the upper chamber would also require lawmakers to give two days’ advance notice to visit facilities holding unaccompanied migrant children, unlike the House bill that doesn’t require any advance notice.
President Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday that he spoke with Pelosi and McConnell, saying that he believes Pelosi “wants to get something done” and that the Senate and House will eventually “be able to do something very good.”
“A lot of people are starting to realize that I was right when I said we have a crisis at the border,” the president said. “It wasn’t manufactured at all.”
But progressives are adamant that the Senate version, while bipartisan, shouldn’t be the final product.
Rep. (D-N.Y.) argued it didn’t go nearly far enough to ensure adequate treatment for migrants at holding facilities, where there’s been documentation of overcrowding and unsanitary conditions.
“I personally don’t think that the Senate bill is acceptable,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters. “The Senate bill is not a humanitarian bill by any stretch of the imagination. And there’s no accountability.”
Ocasio-Cortez, along with three other progressive freshmen, voted against the House measure on Tuesday night.
But Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), another progressive who represents a district along the southern border and voted in favor of the House measure, also said he’s not in favor of the Senate version without “guard rails, restrictions and accountability.”
“Absent that, then we’re just giving him a free hand,” Grijalva said, referring to Trump.
House Republicans, meanwhile, indicated that they could support legislation like the Senate bill.
“Don’t just get your own members in a room. Bring the members of the other party in if it’s a bill that’s going to have to get signed by the president,” House Minority Whip (R-La.) said.
Scott Wong, Mike Lillis and Jordain Carney contributed.