Following a flurry of last-minute changes and the quashing of what’s been described as a “mini-revolt” spearheaded by some liberal critics, the Democratic-led House rallied on Tuesday to approve a $4.5 billion emergency border aid bill aimed at assuaging the suffering faced by migrant children and their families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The bill, which earmarks almost $3 billion for the care of unaccompanied migrant children in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and more than $1 billion for the provision of shelter and food for migrants detained by the U.S. Border Patrol, passed by a mostly party-line vote of 230 to 195.
Four Democrats, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, remained vehemently opposed to the bill ― which they said enabled President Donald Trump’s immigration agenda, regardless of the restrictions included within ― and voted no.
Explaining the bill’s purpose, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the package — which stipulated new health and safety standards for migrants in the government’s care — ensures that detainees have access to basic necessities like “food, clothing, sanitary items, shelter, and medical care.”
“We are providing access to legal assistance. And we are protecting families because families belong together,” Pelosi added.
The fate of the bill, however, is uncertain. The White House has threatened to veto the package over what it described as unnecessary restrictions. The bill, for instance, includes a limit on the amount of time children can be held by the HHS in “influx shelters” and demands that Customs and Border Protection establish better protocols for the provision of medical care, food and other necessities to migrants.
“There are some provisions, I think, that actually are bad for children,” Trump said of the bill Tuesday, The New York Times reported.
House Republicans have said they favor a competing bipartisan Senate bill that passed the Senate Appropriations Committee last week. That bill, which would send about $4.6 billion to the border, differs significantly from the House package, however, in its exclusion of most of the rules demanding more stringent oversight for migrant care.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) beseeched House lawmakers to support the Senate bill.
“I’m hoping the House will conclude that’s the best way to get the problem solved,” he said on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported.