Congress

Senate GOP unveils omnibus bill to fund wall, reopen government

The 1,301-page draft bill includes parts outlined by Trump in his Saturday speech

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence arrive to the Capitol to attend the Senate Republican policy luncheons on January 9, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Republicans have released a $354.5 billion fiscal 2019 spending package that includes $5.7 billion for border wall construction as well as temporary relief for enrollees in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and immigrants receiving Temporary Protected Status.

The 1,301-page draft bill was released Monday night, and it includes parts outlined by President Donald Trump in his Saturday speech. It is expected to receive a vote in the Senate this week.

Democrats have already rejected the proposal, on grounds that the president should first sign stopgap funding to reopen the nine Cabinet departments that have been closed for the past month. They also oppose the three-year extensions of legal status for the roughly 1 million DACA and TPS recipients, which they argue ought to be permanent.

The measure also includes a three-year provision that would allow unaccompanied minors from Central American countries to apply for asylum, with the requirement that they apply while still in their home country. It would limit the number of minors who can apply for asylum to 50,000 annually. Of those applying, it would limit the number that can be approved each year to 15,000.

Additionally, asylum would have to be deemed “in the national interest,” and anyone previously granted asylum whose status was eliminated before receiving a green card would be permanently banned from the country. The provisions were already drawing the ire of immigration advocates on Twitter late Monday.

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“This bill would be one of the single-biggest dismantling of America’s systems of humanitarian protections ever,” wrote Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, a policy analyst at the American Immigration Council.

The lack of bipartisan support for the proposal virtually ensures that the partial government shutdown, which began on Dec. 22, will continue, as the 800,000 federal employees impacted by the funding lapse inch closer to missing yet another paycheck on Jan. 25. But the White House and GOP leaders are attempting to force a negotiation with Democrats, who have not yet offered their vision of what a border security package should look like.

“The President has proposed a serious compromise to end this shutdown,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby said in a statement announcing the package. “It would not only fund the government and secure the border, but also provide immigration reforms the Democrats have long supported.”

The bill includes versions of the final seven fiscal 2019 spending bills as well as $12.7 billion in disaster aid for victims of the 2018 hurricanes, wildfires and other calamities. That’s slightly below what’s in a $14.2 billion House-passed package.

The $70.4 billion Homeland Security title of the Senate bill would provide around $15 billion more than the version the Senate Appropriations Committee approved last year.

Of that increase, $8.3 billion is for Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief accounts, which is in addition to the separate emergency spending title of the package.

But the remainder reflects Trump’s requests for border security, including $4.1 billion more than the initial Senate bill contained for fencing along the Rio Grande Valley. The measure also would provide substantial increases sought by Trump to house immigrant detainees — enough for 52,000 detention beds, a nearly 25 percent boost over the prior fiscal year — along with funding for some 2,750 Border Patrol and law enforcement officers and to help care for migrant children in custody.

Mexico City, ports of entry

Other than on disaster assistance and Homeland Security, the Senate package is similar in many respects to a six-bill, $271 billion measure the House is slated to take up this week. The House will likely consider Homeland Security funding separately this week, according to aides.

The Senate GOP bill, however, contains some differences with the versions introduced late last week in the House — versions that Democrats said reflected bicameral compromises reached last year.

For example, the Senate package would strip a provision adopted in the Appropriations Committee last year that would have repealed the so-called Mexico City rule, which denies funding to foreign nongovernmental organizations that provide, promote or facilitate abortions. The amendment, from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., was adopted by a vote of 16-15. The House bill would keep a version of the Shaheen Mexico City language.

The House version would keep a version of the Shaheen language.

In the Financial Services spending bill, the Senate’s price tag appears roughly $400 million smaller, in part because it contains far less funding for improvements to ports of entry in California and Arizona than the version House Democrats introduced last week.

The House bill included $275.9 million for the second and final phase of improvements to the Calexico West Land Port of Entry in California, about 30 miles west of the Arizona border. The Senate draft includes $91 million to partially fund the second phase of the Calexico project. The House bill also includes $248.3 million for improvements to the San Luis Land Port of Entry near San Luis, Ariz. The Senate bill contains no funding for that project.

The Senate draft also contains a number of policy extensions for programs with lapsed authorities. It would extend Violence Against Women Act programs through Sept. 30, for instance, while Temporary Assistance for Needy Families would be renewed through June 30, among other provisions.

First try for Senate

The spending package will be the first appropriations measure brought to the Senate floor since the partial government shutdown began about a month ago.

The House has, so far, voted on seven different spending bills that would have reopened part or all of the nine Cabinet departments and various agencies shuttered because of the ongoing stalemate over border wall funding.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opted not to vote on any of those proposals — repeatedly saying he would only hold a floor vote on a spending package that could pass the House, the Senate and receive Trump’s signature. McConnell also said numerous times that a final spending deal would have to be worked out among Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer.

But McConnell changed course late last week after concluding that Pelosi was unwilling to negotiate on Trump’s top priority, the border wall, according to a source familiar with his thinking. He then worked with White House officials, including Vice President Mike Pence and senior adviser Jared Kushner, to hatch the revamped legislative strategy Trump outlined over the weekend.

“I commend the President for his leadership in proposing this bold solution to reopen the government, secure the border, and take bipartisan steps toward addressing current immigration issues,” McConnell said in a statement on Saturday, shortly after Trump announced his proposal.

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