Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday her party 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,” Pelosi 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.
Just 129 House Democrats voted in favor of the border package – accounting for about 55 percent of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s caucus. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Whip Jim Clyburn voted in favor of the bill, but the next ring of leaders opposed it, including No. 4 Ben Ray Lujan, who is running for U.S. Senate, and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic Caucus Chairman who many Democrats believe is on a fast track to replace Pelosi some day.
Republicans carried the water on this vote, bringing 176 ayes to the floor to help it pass. Just seven Republicans opposed the measure, while 95 Democrats voted against the bill. Twenty-five lawmakers skipped the vote, beginning their 11-day recess a little earlier than those who stayed for the vote.
Democrats don’t walk away completely empty-handed.
Pence did agree to aim to implement administratively two changes sought by Pelosi: the 90-day limit on keeping children in influx facilities, and an agreement to notify Congress within 24 hours after the death of a child in custody, according to two officials familiar with their conversation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss it.
In May, more than 144,000 migrants were taken into custody after crossing the border — the largest monthly total in more than a decade. Asylum filings also have skyrocketed, as have arrivals of unaccompanied children.
“This current episode needs to come to an end,” McConnell said of the legislation. “We’ve been playing with it for two months and this is the best we can do at the moment.”