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Congress passes massive border security bill for detention centers



WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives passed a $4.6 billion emergency funding bill for border security and increased conditions at migrant detention centers on Thursday. The bill, first passed by the Senate in an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion, is now slated to go to President Donald Trump’s desk for his signature.

The passage of the bill is the culmination of a major failure from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The original House version of the border funding bill went down in flames in the Senate. When Pelosi and progressives in the House wanted to hash out the differences with the Senate, a rebellious group of moderates forced her hand to simply take up the Senate vote.

Read more: Mitch McConnell won’t cancel crucial Senate votes, even with 7 Democrats out of town for the presidential debates

The Senate bill, which passed the upper chamber 84-8, entails funding for law enforcement, including $145 million for military operations along the border. The bulk of the supplemental legislation goes toward helping migrants and detention facilities, such as $2.88 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services, $1.1 billion for Customs and Border Protection for processing.

“They pass their bill, we respect that,” Pelosi said Wednesday. “We passed our bill, we hope they would respect that. And there are some improvements that we think can be reconciled.”

Pelosi then found herself at the center of a major ideological rift within the House Democratic Caucus.

Progressive House Democrats closer to the party’s base wanted stricter enforcement of the allocated funds to ensure they were only going to improve conditions for the countless migrants at detention facilities across the United States.

The demand for taking the House and Senate versions to a conference stemmed from many progressives distrusting the White House to follow through and not use funds for border security and enforcement.

Progressives were considerably angry. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York embarked on a Twitter tirade against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday.

“His Senate bill is a militarization bill. McConnell killed the House Bill & dropped this one right before recess to force passage,” she wrote. “Well, too bad. This is our job. Cancel vacation, fly the Senate in. Pass a clean humanitarian bill & stop trying to squeeze crises for more pain.”

But McConnell did not “kill” the House bill. He brought it up for a vote, which failed 37-55 as lawmakers in the upper chamber preferred their version, authored by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama.

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A group of moderate lawmakers, who call themselves the “Problem Solvers Caucus,” urged the House to just take up the Senate bill before Congress recesses for the Independence Day break. Other moderates joined in, demanding that something — anything had to be done and ready for Trump to sign by the end of the week.

Pelosi also spoke with Vice President Mike Pence, according to one aide, in which he reiterated the administration’s commitment to the Senate version.

From then on it became apparent the Senate bill was the only way forward.

Prior to the vote on Thursday, Pelosi sent a letter to Democratic colleagues expressing how she was “gravely disappointed in the actions taken by the Senate in opposing regular order of Congress” but admitting the bill had to be passed.

“In order to get resources to the children fastest, we will reluctantly pass the Senate bill,” she wrote. “As we pass the Senate bill, we will do so with a Battle Cry as to how we go forward to protect children in a way that truly honors their dignity and worth.”

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