House passes border spending package in win for Pelosi




The House on Tuesday approved billions of dollars to ease the humanitarian crisis at the southern border, delivering a hard-fought victory to Speaker Nancy Pelosi after several days of battling with her caucus' left flank.

The House voted 230-195 - almost entirely along party lines - to approve the $4.5 billion package for the border, where an influx of Central American migrants has strained government agencies and led to conditions for detained children that both parties have called horrific.

"This situation is child abuse. It is an atrocity that violates every value we have," Pelosi said on the House floor before the bill's passage. "Today our legislation is a vote against the cruel attitude toward children of this administration."

Democrats will now dive into negotiations with Senate GOP leaders, in a difficult bid to get the long-delayed aid package signed into law before leaving town Thursday for a weeklong recess. But even if the two chambers reach an agreement, it's unclear if President Donald Trump will sign the final bill, especially as he demands far-reaching changes to asylum law in exchange for permanently calling off mass deportation raids.

All but four Democrats backed the legislation, in a show of unity within the caucus that came after an all-out whip operation by Pelosi and her deputies. The lone dissenters: liberal freshman Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.).

Three Republicans - Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas), Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) - voted in favor of the bill, despite GOP leaders' repeated attacks on Democrats for their handling of the issue and a Trump veto threat.

Top Democrats made several tweaks to the contentious emergency spending package just hours before it was considered on the floor to fend off a left-wing rebellion, according to multiple lawmakers and aides.

The final version included strict conditions requiring private detention facilities to meet certain standards of care within six months or risk losing their contract. It was the second time in two days that progressive leaders forced changes to the bill amid reluctance to giving Trump any money for his immigration agenda.

"We had to really push to make sure that we've got that kind of accountability built [into] it," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. "You can't just continue to say you need money, but not actually meet the standards that we're laying out."

The Washington state Democrat announced that Democratic leaders and progressives had reached a deal on the latest changes just moments after stepping off the House floor Tuesday afternoon, where she had huddled with Pelosi for several minutes.

Tensions had been running high leading up to the vote, particularly among progressive and Hispanic members.

In a closed-door meeting Tuesday afternoon, Jayapal and Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) got into a heated exchange, after Watson Coleman stressed that every Democrat should vote for the final bill, according to multiple members and aides. Jayapal countered that each member had the right to oppose legislation based on their own principles.

Both lawmakers later downplayed the exchange. "We're all good," Jayapal said after the meeting.

But Coleman confirmed her overall case to the progressive caucus.

"I cannot believe that Democrats would not vote for this bill," Watson Coleman said in an interview. "And that was my message."

The late-night vote came after Pelosi and her leadership team spent the previous 48 hours furiously finalizing support for the measure.

Lawmakers in both parties have been horrified by reports of the conditions at the border, where multiple migrant children have died and others are held in wretched, unsanitary conditions, often without access to basic necessities including showers, toothbrushes and nutritious food.

Pelosi made a final sales pitch to the caucus Tuesday morning, arguing that Democrats needed to stand behind their plan to tackle the humanitarian crisis, rather than squabble over Trump and his immigration policies. A vote against the bill, she said, would be a vote for Trump.

"The president would love for this bill to go down today," Pelosi told the caucus as she urged support, according to a senior Democratic aide. At one point, Pelosi asked lawmakers, "Does anyone have a problem with the bill?" the aide said. No one responded aloud.

As Pelosi worked the room, she walked around with a whip list in her hand as she approached individual members to see how they were going to vote. She encouraged lawmakers to chat with her outside if they had concerns, according to sources in the room.

"One of the things I don't like is surprises," Pelosi told members in the closed-door meeting.
And in remarks to reporters after the meeting, the California Democrat predicted a successful vote: "It will pass when we bring it to the floor."

The $4.5 billion emergency measure would avert a funding lapse at the federal refugee office that has overseen thousands of unaccompanied children migrating from Central America, though it still needs to be reconciled with the Senate's own version before becoming law.

The Senate plans to pass its own bipartisan measure this week, setting up a small window for a deal between the House and Senate before lawmakers leave town for a week-long recess.
Senate GOP leaders have stressed that the House should simply pass its version, which Pelosi herself described to her caucus as a "good" bill.

"The idea here is to get a signature," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday of the need to get something to Trump. "I think once we can get that out of the Senate... I'm hoping that the House will conclude that's the best way to get the problem solved, which can only happen with a signature."

But Democratic leaders say they want to reach a compromise between both bills.

"I'd like to go further than the Senate bill," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday. He said he hoped the Senate would pass its bill, "and then quickly have some kind of negotiation and get something to the president's desk ASAP."

On the House side, Democratic leaders worked to contain a rebellion within their left flank, doling out last-minute tweaks to progressives, including Ocasio-Cortez, after a late-night meeting in Pelosi's office on Monday.

Those changes, which require certain standards of health, hygiene and nutrition for unaccompanied children, were formally added to the bill hours ahead of the vote.

Democrats also agreed to changes that tighten restrictions for short-term detention facilities, known as influx shelters, stating that no child could be kept in a shelter for more than 90 days. The new language would also ensure that all migrants in U.S. custody have access to translation services.

Pelosi's all-out whip operation on Tuesday morning followed a lengthy, tense meeting in her office Monday night. Members of both the Hispanic and Progressive caucuses had been threatening to vote against the bill, putting its passage in jeopardy.

Ultimately, however, both caucuses threw their support behind the leadership-backed measure.

"It's like every bill we pass," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). "It's not perfect, but it's a good bill."

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