Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made clear Monday that he would be calling a standalone vote on supplemental appropriations to help deal with a massive influx of undocumented migrants at the border before the Fourth of July recess.
The Kentucky Republican, appearing in studio on “Fox & Friends,” reiterated that his conference had wanted the funding included in the recently-enacted emergency supplemental for disaster relief.
“In the Senate, we wanted to add to it the roughly $5 billion the president’s requested to deal, not with the wall, but just the humanitarian part of the crisis at the border. The Democrats insisted on stripping it out,” McConnell said. “So, I’m going to bring it up free-standing next week, and see if they if really aren’t interested in dealing with this mass of humanity that we have to take care of at the border.”
He continued to put the blame on House and Senate Democrats for the assistance not getting to President Donald Trump’s desk. Lawmakers eventually passed and Trump signed a $19.1 billion disaster aid package (PL 116-20) earlier this month to respond to hurricanes, wildfires, flooding and other weather-related issues.
“Actually, I think it’s safe to say the president’s getting more cooperation out of Mexico than he is out of congressional Democrats,” McConnell said.
During the visit to one of Trump’s favorite television programs, McConnell expressed his support for what may well be the president’s top immigration policy priority, although he made clear that the southern border barrier is not going to be a piece of the package he will call up on the floor next week.
“We want to build a wall. We think the president’s made a good case for that,” McConnell said. “That’s not what this is about. This is just the humanitarian part of the problem on our side, obviously, of the border.”
In May, Trump requested $4.5 billion for federal agencies to process the recent surge of migrants, especially children traveling alone, primarily escaping violence and poor economic conditions in the Northern Triangle countries — El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
The request contained $3.3 billion for what the White House deemed humanitarian assistance, including food, medical care and shelter for unaccompanied children as well as families crossing the border. Most of that funding, $2.9 billion, would be for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, which takes interim custody of the children after they are detained and before they are matched up with family members or other potential sponsors. The remainder is for the Department of Homeland Security to set up temporary processing facilities and provide necessities for families traveling together.
In addition to a dispute over an information-sharing deal between DHS and HHS regarding the immigration status and criminal histories of potential sponsors for the unaccompanied children, Democrats have been angling to strip funding requested to build out Immigration Customs Enforcement detention capacity. Senate Appropriations ranking Democrat Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont outlined objections to those and other aspects of the Trump request in a floor speech last week.
The Senate Appropriations Committee is planning to mark up an as-yet-unrelated border supplemental package on Wednesday, in advance of expected floor consideration next week.
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