The White House threatened late Monday to veto the $4.5 billion House bill which would provide emergency funding at the border over concerns that legislation in its current form lacks the money necessary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to function properly and includes last-minute provisions thrown in by Democratic lawmakers “that would make our country less safe.”
In a statement issued by the White House Monday night, the administration warned that the bill would be vetoed this week if passed.
“After ignoring the Administration’s request for desperately needed funding to address the humanitarian crisis at the border for over a month, and despite the efforts of the House minority, the House majority has put forward a partisan bill that underfunds necessary accounts and seeks to take advantage of the current crisis by inserting policy provisions that would make our country less safe,” the statement reads.
Some of the provisions added by Democrats include measures that withhold funding from detention centers at the border. The push to pass the bill comes as reports of child deaths after being detained at the border continue to grow.
Customs and Border Protection Chief Operating Officer John Sanders told The Associated Press last week that children have died after being in the agency’s care. He said Border Patrol stations are holding 15,000 people — more than triple their maximum capacity of 4,000.
The deliberations over the bill, meanwhile, are posing a major challenge to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s grip on her party.
It’s unclear when and if the bill might get a vote, even as the Senate is ready to proceed with its own version. Liberal Democrats are calling for provisions to strengthen protections for migrant children, and challenge the Trump administration’s border policies. Democrats met on Capitol Hill with Pelosi late Monday to try and reach a compromise.
Asked before the meeting about concerns that Democrats’ push for perfection might result in inaction at the border, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., called it “a delicate situation.” Afterward, she appeared to have left the door open saying: “My main goal is to keep kids from dying,” before calling the humanitarian bill a “short-term” measure.”
But others weren’t swayed. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., said after the meeting: “We cannot continue to throw money at a dysfunctional system. We are not just asking for simple changes to be made into this bill, but to go back to the drawing board and really address this from a humanitarian issue.”
The White House accused lawmakers in a letter earlier Monday of trying to undermine its efforts at the border.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar also told Fox News on Monday that the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border is dire. Azar said HHS shelters are at capacity and the budget is not there to increase it unless Congress acts.
Congress plans to leave Washington in a few days for a weeklong July 4 recess. While lawmakers don’t want to depart without acting on the legislation for fear of being accused of not responding to humanitarian problems at the border, it seems unlikely that Congress would have time to send a House-Senate compromise to Trump by week’s end.
Fox News’ Griff Jenkins and The Associated Press contributed to this report.