Democrats relent as House passes McConnell-backed border aid bill

The U.S. Capitol. (Credit: Toni Smith, USGS. Public domain

WASHINGTON — A $4.6 billion humanitarian aid package for the southern U.S. border is poised to be enacted after top U.S. House Democrats reluctantly helped pass a version of the legislation adopted by the U.S. Senate.

The House vote on Thursday followed a week of tense negotiations over the aid funding, which federal immigration officials say is urgently needed to provide care and shelter to migrants who are being housed in overcrowded detention centers along the border. The aid bill became ensnared by the divisive battle over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

Four Virginia Democrats — U.S. Reps. Elaine Luria, 2nd, Bobby Scott, 3rd, Abigail Spanberger, 7th, and Jennifer Wexton, 10th, — voted for the bill, along with the state’s four Republican congressmen, Ben Cline, 6th, Morgan Griffith, 9th, Denver Riggleman, 5th, and Rob Wittman, 1st.

U.S. Reps. Don Beyer, D-8th, Gerry Connolly, D-11th, and Don McEachin, D-4th, voted against the bill.

The House passed its own package earlier this week with stricter health and safety protections for migrants and more congressional oversight requirements.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made it clear that was a nonstarter in the upper chamber of Congress, and the Senate passed its own version of the legislation with broad bipartisan support on Wednesday. He called the Senate version the “only game in town.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) stressed on the House floor Thursday that it wasn’t the bill she wanted. The Senate’s version passed the House by a vote of 305-102, with 176 Republicans supporting the bill and only 129 Democrats.

“We could have done so much better, so much better than what we are faced with today,” Pelosi said. She said she was “gravely disappointed in the actions taken by the Senate,” where leaders refused to compromise to move that bill closer to the measure passed in the House.

With funding drying up and members of Congress about to head back to their districts for the July 4 recess, Pelosi said she relented to ensure that agencies had resources available. “It will not be the end of this debate,” she said.

The legislation that has now cleared both chambers of Congress includes more than $1 billion to shelter and feed detained migrants and nearly $3 billion to care for unaccompanied migrant children, the Associated Press reported.

The measure also includes funding opposed by some House Democrats that would go toward Department of Defense military expenses, funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and overtime payments for Customs and Border Protection employees, according to the Texas Tribune.

Editor Robert Zullo contributed.