Wednesday afternoon, before leaving on a five-week vacation, the House Appropriations Committee approved the 2019 Homeland Security spending bill. Praised as a bipartisan “compromise,” the budget package delivers $5 billion in funding as a down payment for President Donald Trump’s long-awaited border security wall, in exchange for extending protections to “dreamers” for another year, and mollifying Democrats in various other ways.
“Globalization, cybersecurity, and terrorism are changing our way of life and we need to change with it. This bill fully supports our men and women on the frontline who work tirelessly to keep us safe,” Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) relayed in a statement.
“The bill also provides the necessary funding for critical technology and physical barriers to secure our borders,” added the retiring committee Chairman.
What was produced by the committee this week is a “smaller version” of what the president has asked for, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) explains. “It’s a mini-compromise based on what the president laid out,” the chairman of the Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee elaborated.
The committee voted in a partisan 29-22 split to allow the bill to proceed for a floor vote by all members of the House. It originally came from the Senate, and on Wednesday the committee “marked-up” changes to some of the language, called “amendments,” in order to reach a deal.
One amendment added by Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) would “bar Immigrations and Customs Enforcement from detaining or deporting undocumented immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program who retain their eligibility for the program by maintaining a clean criminal record.”
Before it gets to the president’s desk for signature, the bill still has a long way to travel. First, it has to make it off of the House Floor before going back to the Senate. All changes made by the House to what the Senate already approved have to be re-approved.
The Department of Homeland Security gets $51.4 billion in “discretionary funding” which is a $3.7 billion raise.
Out of that, the Federal Emergency Management Agency gets $7.2 billion which is earmarked to add 400 brand new Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. 1.9 billion will go toward “cybersecurity efforts.”
Democrats on the committee were aggressively demanding concessions on their pet issues. Some of the most heated skirmishes were in opposition to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision that gang and domestic violence are not valid grounds for “asylum.”
Rep. David Price (D- N.C.) successfully tacked on an amendment that will “prohibit funds from being used to implement the guidance from the Justice Department.”
It isn’t clear how much money might be needed for the “non-processing” of such claims, but liberals have something to say in front of the television cameras that makes them look good to constituents.
“The precedent was established in 2014 that those fleeing gang violence and domestic violence would, under certain circumstances, be eligible for a credible fear claim,” Price orated.
“There’s no question that what Attorney General Sessions has done would close the door almost completely.”
Thanks to Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), the use of shackles on pregnant female illegal aliens will henceforth be “limited” while detained by immigration and Border Patrol officials.
“ICE has recently reported it has detained more than 500 pregnant women since December, and they are using shackling on pregnant women,” the amendment’s sponsor protested.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) was aghast that conservative Republicans would be cruel enough to actually close the borders between ports of entry. “It is outrageous that House Republicans have prioritized unnecessary funds for President Trump’s border wall and cruel immigration policies.”
Lowey is convinced the only way to effectively fight terrorism is through “substantial new investments in first responder grants.” It seems that every Democrat solution known to man involves throwing money into the wind.
Ignoring all the advances President Trump has already made on improving the economy and lowering unemployment, Lowey says the key to border security is “growing the economy and creating jobs through job training, making college more affordable, or research and development initiatives.”
Conservatives want to at least see some fences going up until a full-scale wall gets built. Instead of annually funding programs, we can build a barricade once and get years and years of enjoyment with low maintenance costs, they note.
Another feel-good-but-do-nothing concession granted to Democrats protects the DACA recipients “that are active duty military or veterans” from deportation.
Those individuals are already granted that protection but recently some recruits made the headlines when they became eligible for deportation after washing out without starting basic training.
Assuming the House passes the measure as it currently stands, the process starts all over again in the Senate. It will go back and forth until both chambers agree on the same language. Once finally approved by Congress, it goes to the President for signature or veto.
Some form of the bill is expected to pass eventually but if it doesn’t happen by September 30, once again the government will be without financing and another “stopgap” resolution will be necessary.