House Democrats are pulling their Homeland Security spending bill from the floor just days before it was slated for a vote, with vulnerable “frontline” members ultimately tanking the measure over several liberal immigration policies.
“Frontline members raised serious concerns that the Homeland bill was a tough vote in swing districts because of its progressive provisions,” a House Democratic aide said Tuesday.
“At the end of the day, frontliners are our majority makers and there is no reason to force them to take a tough vote when we can negotiate with the Senate using the Appropriations [Committee]-passed bill.”
The fiscal 2021 funding measure for the Department of Homeland Security is part of a seven-bill, $1.4 trillion minibus that the lower chamber plans to pass on Friday.
The decision — while a relief for more moderate members — is a disappointment for appropriators, who had laced the bill with language to curb the Trump administration’s immigration agenda and cut Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention. House Democrats also failed to pass their own Homeland Security funding bill last year amid divisions within the caucus.
“This is probably the most progressive Homeland Security bill that has ever been presented to the House,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), the chair of the Homeland Security spending panel, said last week.
“It literally has everything in it that the advocates, the members, have told me over the years, had to be in the bill,” said Roybal-Allard, ticking off provisions that limit the number of detention beds and prevent the Trump administration from moving money around for its immigration priorities.
Several lawmakers had also submitted an amendment to the DHS bill that would have blocked federal funding for the administration’s use of paramilitary action to quell protests in Oregon and Washington state.
While Democrats sitting in the most vulnerable districts ultimately torpedoed the bill, the leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus had also been pressing leadership to strip the measure from the minibus.
“Voting to put so much money into this agency, at this moment, when these bills aren’t going to go anywhere in the Senate, I think makes no sense whatsoever,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of the CPC, said in an interview last week.
A House Democratic aide said progressives “had little role“ in the final decision to pull the DHS funding bill from the massive minibus, since they had also opposed the defense spending measure and the inclusion of the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortion.
“The result is that the House won’t pass a bill that would have dramatically cut ICE detention and reined in the Trump administration,” the aide said. “It’s just like last summer’s border bill: by making the perfect the enemy of the good, the progressives end up with nothing.”
The DHS funding measure did have the backing of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, however.
In a Dear Colleague letter sent last week, CHC Chair Joaquín Castro (D-Texas) said the CHC supports the legislation because it includes a number of provisions that would undercut the Trump administration’s immigration agenda, end funding for the border wall and prohibit the president from moving money around to fund his priorities.
“We recognize that the Homeland Security Appropriations bill does not include 100 percent of what we want, but it represents a significant step forward toward achieving our goals,” the wrote in the letter, which was obtained by POLITICO.
“Further, it ensures our leadership has a strong negotiating position to keep our House priorities in a final appropriations package after the end of this fiscal year on September 30th,” he wrote.
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