House Democrats released spending bills Monday that are likely to clash with Senate Republicans and earn a veto threat from President Trump less than three months from a critical government funding deadline.
One spending measure kills any new border wall funding in 2021, another legalizes the hiring of “Dreamers” by members of Congress. A provision also requires the removal of an expanded list of statues now on display in the Capitol, depicting men linked to the Confederacy and other racial injustices.
The provisions make it more likely the two parties could remain gridlocked on spending ahead of the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year, when new funding must be approved to avoid a government shutdown.
Democrats, who control the House majority, aren’t planning to back down on their demands, despite likely opposition from the GOP-led Senate and Trump.
“Members of Congress feel strongly that they should be able to hire ‘Dreamers,’ and, given the overwhelming popularity of DACA, this is a fight House Democrats welcome,” Evan Hollander, a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee, told the Washington Examiner. “Likewise, the time has come to remove these statues, and the legislative branch’s funding bill is the appropriate place to direct the Architect of the Capitol to arrange for them to be returned to the states.”
The two parties are set to clash over the House Appropriations Committee’s $4.2 billion spending plan for the legislative branch, which lawmakers plan to advance in committee on Tuesday.
House Democrats Monday released a 2021 spending bill that covers operations in the Capitol, and it includes a provision that would allow House lawmakers to hire illegal immigrants who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.
Democrats included the DACA hiring provision in the 2020 measure as well, but Trump threatened to veto the bill, and Democrats ultimately removed it from the measure.
Despite the veto threat last year, Democrats have included the provision again in this year’s spending bill. The move follows a June 18 Supreme Court ruling upholding DACA, but the Trump administration has refiled their court challenge to the Obama-era policy.
Democrats appear determined to keep the provision in the measure this time.
“I am especially proud that this funding bill allows DACA recipients to work in the halls of Congress,” Rep. Tim Ryan, an Ohio Democrat and top appropriator, said Monday. “The United States is the only country ‘Dreamers’ have ever known. These young people deserve to work here, and the House of Representatives will be a better institution because of their service.”
Democrats added another policy provision to the legislative branch spending bill that orders the removal of 13 Confederate statues that stand in the Capitol as well as several other statues of historic figures who perpetuated racism.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month requested the removal of the Confederate figures to a committee of lawmakers who oversee the statues, but Republicans told Pelosi only the states that commissioned the statues can revoke them.
The legislative branch spending bill, a must-pass measure, expands the list and bypasses the opposition of the Republicans on the committee overseeing Capitol statues. It calls on the Capitol architect to remove the 13 states of Confederate officers “as well as the statues of individuals with unambiguous records of racial intolerance.”
The expanded list includes a bust and portrait of former Vice President John C. Calhoun that are displayed in the Senate, as well as statues of Charles Aycock, James Paul Clarke, and Roger B. Taney.
Aycock was elected governor of North Carolina in 1900 and was an education advocate and reformer who helped pass anti-lynching laws. But he was also considered a white supremacist who contributed to racism in the state.
Clarke was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1903 as a Democrat. He was a defender of white supremacy.
Calhoun was a longtime member of Congress before serving as vice president. While admired as a great legislator, he was also a staunch defender of slavery and was a white supremacist.
Taney was the chief justice of the Supreme Court when it ruled that slaves were not U.S. citizens.
The Democratic spending measure instructs the architect “to work with the States who contributed Confederate statues to return them to the donor State.”
Democratic leaders on the House Appropriations Committee also released a $50.7 billion Homeland Security spending bill for fiscal year 2021 that provides no new funding for the construction of a border wall, no increase in funding to hire additional border patrol agents, and it prevents the president from building any new part of the wall beyond what had been approved in previous spending years.
The bill also rescinds $1.4 billion from the fiscal year 2020 spending to reclaim the funding Trump last year diverted to wall construction from the Department of Defense budget.
The measure is poised to clash with the GOP-run Senate, where Republican appropriators are likely to try to fulfill at least part of Trump’s budget request of $2 billion in border wall funding for next year. Senate Republicans are also unlikely to agree with the House bill provision to rescind $1.4 billion in homeland spending to make up for Trump’s diversion of Defense money to fund wall construction.
House spending committees are set to advance the legislative and homeland spending bills on Tuesday.
Partisan fighting prompted Senate Republicans to postpone consideration of spending measures until later in July, further increasing the risk that Congress will run out of time and will fail to pass the one dozen spending measures by the Sept. 30 deadline.
Senate Democrats wanted to include additional funding to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, a move Republicans opposed. The GOP plans to consider additional funding in a separate measure in July. Democrats also wanted to add funding to fiscal 2021 spending bills to address racial injustice following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police after a white officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
“There is bipartisan agreement that we need to address the COVID pandemic,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, of Vermont, who is the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said. “And if we want to truly address the issues of racial injustice that George Floyd’s tragic death has brought to the surface, we need more than symbolism, we need to appropriate money for programs that advance these issues. Offering and considering amendments related to appropriations to address the most important issues of the day is not partisan, it is the job the committee is here to do.”
If Congress does not meet the deadline, lawmakers will be forced to consider passing a temporary funding bill that keeps the government operating at 2020 levels until a bipartisan agreement can be reached that the president is willing to sign.