House passes border funding bill after Pelosi reversal outrages progressives

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will "reluctantly" pass the Senate's version of a border funding bill. CNN's Manu Raju has the details.

Posted: Jun 27, 2019 1:31 PM
Updated: Jun 27, 2019 3:45 PM


The House on Thursday passed a Senate version of a border funding bill that aims to address the humanitarian crisis at the southern border following outrage and an outpouring of emotion on the House floor from progressives.

The vote, 305-102, came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reversed her previous call to reconcile the two bills ahead of the July Fourth recess. Pelosi's announcement marked a reversal from her previous calls to reconcile the two bills to address the humanitarian crisis at the US-Mexico border ahead of the July Fourth recess.

'The children come first. At the end of the day, we have to make sure that the resources needed to protect the children are available,' she wrote in a letter to her caucus earlier Thursday. 'Therefore, we will not engage in the same disrespectful behavior that the Senate did in ignoring our priorities. In order to get resources to the children fastest, we will reluctantly pass the Senate bill.'

Speaking shortly after Pelosi's announcement, Rep. Veronica Escobar became emotional on the House floor as she talked about the photo released earlier this week of a father and daughter who drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande into the US. The Texas Democrat wiped away a tear at one point during her speech as her voice broke.

The House then held a moment of silence on the floor for all migrants who have died at the border, including the father and child.

The shocking image went viral this week -- serving as a grim reminder of the dangerous journey migrants take to get to the United States -- and added even more urgency for Republicans and Democrats to make a deal.

On Wednesday, Pelosi signaled that she wouldn't concede to Senate Republicans, replying 'no' when asked if the House would take up the Senate version of the aid package. She spoke on the phone with Vice President Mike Pence for nearly an hour Thursday, a senior Democratic aide said, before meeting with her leadership team to brief them.

A source familiar with the matter explained that in exchange for the House taking up the bill, Pence promised administrative changes, including that members would be notified within 24 hours after the death of a child in custody and he agreed to the 90-day time limit on children spending time in an influx facility. The moves can be done by the administration.

Ninety-five Democrats voted against Thursday afternoon's bill, while 129 supported it. Seven Republicans opposed the measure, with 176 in favor.

The White House has yet to officially declare whether President Donald Trump will sign the bill, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed confidence earlier Thursday that Trump would.

Moderates pushed Pelosi

The House unveiled an amendment to the $4.6 billion Senate bill late Wednesday, but Democratic moderates threatened to revolt and kill the latest border spending bill pushed by the House, according to two Democratic sources involved in the effort.

Behind the scenes, moderates were encouraging members of the Blue Dog and Problem Solvers caucuses to vote against a procedural vote that governed floor debate and force Pelosi to pass the bipartisan Senate bill, as the White House and Hill Republicans have been demanding.

Asked why he thinks Pelosi ultimately decided to go with the clean bill, Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said: 'We cannot lead with a game of chicken,' adding the House and Senate can't go back and forth on something as pressing as this.

Cuellar, a Democrat from Texas, says that for him, the growing distress at the border is happening at home. The congressman pulled out his phone and showed reporters images he'd been sent from constituents at the border.

'Listen, I don't go visit the border. I live at the border. Those men and women who sometimes get demonized. That is wrong. Those are my neighbors and I have their backs,' he said.

Progressives outraged

Progressives, meanwhile, argued they cannot trust the Trump administration not to divert money for humanitarian aid toward immigration enforcement, and that they need to include more protections as well as higher standards of care.

'I do not believe we should be throwing more money to ICE,' Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York told CNN's Jake Tapper on 'The Lead' Thursday after Pelosi's announcement. 'My district is 50% immigrant. I have an obligation and responsibility to protect them. I believe what we should ideally be doing is passing a pure humanitarian bill to get money straight to the kids.'

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington argued after a meeting Thursday morning: 'Nobody in that room trusts this President. Nobody. So, we have to make sure this money is being used for the children.'

Emotional display on House floor

Shortly before the House vote, Escobar called for the moment of silence. Her voice broke while recalling the photograph of Salvadorans Oscar Alberto Martinez and his daughter Angie Valeria, who drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande. Everyone in the chamber -- Republican and Democrat -- stood for the duration of her remarks and then for the moment of silence.

'The photograph that all of us saw this week should tear all of us up,' said the congresswoman form Texas' 16th Congressional District, which includes El Paso.

'For those of us who are parents, to see a toddler with her little arms wrapped around the neck of her father,' Escobar said.

She added, 'In their name, let us never forget their sacrifice and the sacrifice that so many parents make for the most vulnerable among us.'

This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.

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