The battle over border funding has turned into a battle over money for ICE, with Democrats insisting Thursday on cuts to the agency’s proposed budget in order to approve humanitarian assistance for children.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pleaded with her troops for unity, saying in a letter that if Democrats fracture they’ll lose “leverage” in the increasingly messy debate, which has become more about politics than border aid.
All sides agree on the biggest chunk of money — nearly $3 billion in assistance to the federal Health Department to care for Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC).
But other parts of President Trump’s request are more divisive.
He asked for money to continue the deployment of troops at the border, and to pay salaries at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, where agents and officers have been deployed to help border authorities deal with the overwhelming surge of migrants.
The Senate, in a bipartisan 84-8 vote, approved most of that money on Wednesday.
Mrs. Pelosi said Thursday she won’t accept that, insisting on provisions from the partisan Democratic bill her chamber passed Tuesday.
“We are calling upon the Trump Administration and the Senate to engage in an immediate conference to do the best we can for the children before we leave for the 4th of July,” she said in her letter to Democrats, adding, “Our leverage with the Senate and the Administration is strengthened by the unity of House Democrats.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said there may be room for some negotiations over transparency provisions Democrats want.
But he said the Senate won’t accept a Democratic proposal that punishes ICE employees for their work. He called it “that abolish-ICE playbook,” and said if that’s part of the bill Democrats send back to the Senate, they’ll table the measure.
“The United States Senate is not going to pass a border funding bill that cuts the money for ICE and the Department of Defense,” he said.
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