Trump's border funding comes back from the dead

Trump's border funding comes back from the dead
© Getty Images

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBooker hits Biden's defense of remarks about segregationist senators: 'He's better than this' Booker hits Biden's defense of remarks about segregationist senators: 'He's better than this' Trump says Democrats are handing out subpoenas 'like they're cookies' MORE’s request for $4.5 billion in emergency funding for the border is getting a much-needed jolt of momentum in Congress.

Appropriators are drafting legislation that would provide billions in humanitarian aid for the border, marking the first sign of movement on the issue since funding was yanked from a disaster aid package.

ADVERTISEMENT

While it faces plenty of hurdles ahead, the package’s chances of making it to Trump’s desk by the end of the month suddenly look more possible.

“Hopefully the House Democrats will be amenable to working with us to get that done,” said Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneHillicon Valley: GOP senator wants one agency to run tech probes | Huawei expects to lose B in sales from US ban | Self-driving car bill faces tough road ahead | Elon Musk tweets that he 'deleted' his Twitter account Hillicon Valley: GOP senator wants one agency to run tech probes | Huawei expects to lose B in sales from US ban | Self-driving car bill faces tough road ahead | Elon Musk tweets that he 'deleted' his Twitter account New push to regulate self-driving cars faces tough road MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican.

“It should have been in the last supplemental bill, it wasn’t because they objected,” he said, referring to Democrats. “They made it very difficult.”

The Senate appears likely to move first, with Republicans saying they will take up legislation similar to the administration’s $4.5 billion request in the Appropriations Committee next week.

The White House’s request includes $3.3 billion for humanitarian aid, which the administration says would be used to increase shelters and care for unaccompanied minors, in addition to processing arrivals. They’ve also asked for roughly $1.1 billion for other border operations like expanding the number of detention beds and providing more investigation resources.

Republicans are raising pressure on Democrats to back the bill. Republicans will need at least seven Democrats to reach the 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster on the Senate floor.

Democratic leaders say the caucus backs providing additional humanitarian aid for the U.S.-Mexico border, including shoring up a Health and Human Services (HHS) office that is responsible for unaccompanied minors detained along the border and on the verge of running out of funding.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSenate confirms Trump judicial nominee criticized for being hostile to LGBT community Senate confirms Trump judicial nominee criticized for being hostile to LGBT community Democrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills MORE (D-N.Y.) told reporters during a weekly press conference that humanitarian aid was the “sweet spot” for any deal to be had on Capitol Hill.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We want to move a package of that $4.5 [billion], about $3.3, $3.4 is from HHS, the ORR — the Office of Refugee Resettlement. We are all for that,” Schumer said.

But Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyHouse Democrats close to finalizing border aid bill House Democrats close to finalizing border aid bill Senate panel approves .5B for Trump's border request MORE (D-Vt.) says he hasn’t seen proposed language from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record Overnight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record Senate to vote Thursday to block Trump's Saudi arms deal MORE (R-Ky.) or Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyHouse Democrats close to finalizing border aid bill House Democrats close to finalizing border aid bill Congressional leaders, White House officials fail to reach budget deal MORE (R-Ala.), leaving Democrats in the dark about what bill will be put forward.

Democrats also warn that the White House could throw a curveball into any negotiations, noting the administration has previously been a stumbling block for talks on Capitol Hill.

“The trouble is, their position keeps changing. Most of this border stuff we could have passed weeks ago, but the Republicans kept saying ‘no’ because they kept getting conflicting words from the White House,” Leahy said, asked about when he expects to see language on the border bill.

Thune predicted that a GOP proposal would “certainly start” with a list of items the administration provided lawmakers about what it wants in a package. He added that McConnell discussed the issue with Vice President Pence, who attended Tuesday’s closed-door GOP lunch.

The border money got yanked out of the disaster aid bill after a stalemate over immigration-related provisions including when HHS could share information with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) about potential sponsors for unaccompanied minors.

Asked how lawmakers can avoid a similar setback, Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinOvernight Health Care: Trump officials defend changes to family planning program | Senators unveil bipartisan package on health costs | Democrats pass T spending bill with HHS funds Overnight Health Care: Trump officials defend changes to family planning program | Senators unveil bipartisan package on health costs | Democrats pass T spending bill with HHS funds Kushner meeting with senators to craft asylum deal MORE (D-Ill.) quipped, “Keep the president out of the Senate Republican caucus lunch.”

Though both sides say they want to pass humanitarian aid for the border, Trump’s proposal included some requests, like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) funding, that are non-starters for Democrats.

Shelby said his office is still drafting legislation, which he pledged to share with Democrats as soon as it’s finished. He stressed that he wanted a proposal to be “clean” humanitarian aid, which could help avoid a partisan fight.

House Democrats say they’ve been in touch with Republicans and administration officials as they’ve tried to draft a supplemental bill to address the border.

“I am assured that we will soon be moving on a supplemental appropriations bill to address the immediate challenges. Bipartisan, bicameral cooperation will be essential to ensure the badly needed additional funds are provided and used effectively and humanely,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-AllardLucille Roybal-AllardTrump's border funding comes back from the dead Democrats set stage for next shutdown fight with wall-free spending bill Democrats set stage for next shutdown fight with wall-free spending bill MORE (D-Calif.), the chair of the House Appropriations’s DHS subcommittee, said during a markup this week.

A House Democratic aide said Wednesday that they had been negotiating “in good faith” with Republicans about humanitarian aid for the border that also protected “the rights and dignity of migrants.”

“We are continuing to have important discussions in our Caucus on this issue, and hope to work with the Senate to complete a bicameral, bipartisan humanitarian supplemental by the July 4 district work period,” the aide added.

But a border package could face a tougher slog in the House, where progressives are wary of supporting anything that could, directly or indirectly, help enforce Trump’s immigration and border policies.

Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroTrump's border funding comes back from the dead House passes bill to protect 'Dreamers' House passes bill to protect 'Dreamers' MORE (D-Texas), who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said he is still waiting to see the final language for the supplemental, but warned against including provisions that increased the number of detention beds.

“I can just generally say that we want to support humanitarian efforts, but we want to make investments in things that speed up the process,” he said. “What we don’t want to do is to create more permanent ICE beds or even ORR beds, so that’s what we’re watching for.”

Niv Elis and Rafael Bernal contributed.