The House on Wednesday adopted a resolution expressing support for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and rejecting calls to abolish the agency with primarily Republican support as most Democrats voted “present.” The final vote was 244-35, with 133 Democrats voting present.
Republicans readily acknowledged the vote was about putting Democrats on record as calls from left-wing members of the party have been dismissed by more moderate and establishment Democrats as unproductive.
Understanding the GOP’s political motivations, Democrats decided on a strategy of effectively dismissing the resolution by voting “present.”
All told, 226 Republicans voted yes, and one, Michigan’s Justin Amash, voted no. Of the Democrats, 133 voted present, 18 yes and 34 voted no.
Because the measure was brought up under suspension of the rules, requiring three-quarters approval, the resolution would not have passed if more Democrats voted no instead of present.
“This isn’t about whether you support ICE or not,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a floor speech.
“I’m going to vote present on it because they’ll use it politically,” the California Democrat added, noting members should vote how they wish but understand the vote is just about making a political point.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise said Democrats who don’t vote “yes” are going to have a hard time explaining their votes.
“Voting present means that they’re not willing to stand up for our men and women who sacrifice their lives to keep America safe,” the Louisiana Republican told Roll Call. “It’s a clear vote.”
Democrats spent most of the floor debate time talking about Republicans’ failure to pass legislation addressing pressing immigration issues like the separation of families detained at the border.
“This is a humanitarian crisis,” Judiciary Committee ranking member Jerrold Nadler of New York said. “We do not have the time to waste with political stunts while the moral fiber of our country is torn apart. I will be voting present on this bill because I have no desire to play the Republicans’ immoral games right now. We have much more important things to do.”
Republican leaders had originally planned to bring up a bill by Progressive Caucus members that would have terminated ICE after enactment of a more humane immigration enforcement system, but the authors of the bill said Democrats would have unanimously opposed it in protest to the GOP’s political ploy.
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy noted during a floor speech that he offered Democrats a vote on their bill and they said they’d vote against it.
The California Republican accused the minority of wanting the glory of introducing a bill to appease the far left, but noted,“They didn’t have the guts to accept the consequences.”