June 28, 2019
By David Dayen | Jun 28, 2019
The House Border Supplemental Debacle. While we’ve spent the past two days watching candidates who want to win the next election, we’ve neglected a disaster from the winners of the last election. For the past week, the House has been working on a $4.5 billion emergency border supplemental appropriation, responding to the inhumane conditions in migrant holding cells. Progressives wanted to condition aid so it only went to improving standards for migrants, and wasn’t stolen by the president to finance deportation raids or a border wall.
The Progressive Caucus worked closely with Nancy Pelosi to craft those conditions. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez played the inside game to improve the policy. The bill would have specified the delivery of food, water, sanitary items, and medical care to migrant children, would have limited stays in holding cells to 90 days, and would have terminated the contracts of all for-profit management companies who violated the standards. The process was hard-fought and progressives didn’t get everything, but they advanced the policy.
And then it all fell apart. Senate Republicans neglected the House bill and got widespread Democratic support for its own $4.6 billion measure, which had none of the conditions to limit the funding to emergency aid, and even earmarked some of it for continuing President Trump’s draconian immigration policies, including funding for ICE that the House left out, and money for the Pentagon likely to go to tent camps to warehouse more migrants.
With Chuck Schumer failing to coordinate with Pelosi and enabling such big bipartisan support, McConnell could just jam the House and leave town, telling Pelosi to take it or leave it. She took it. The last straw was a rebellion by House centrists led by Josh Gottheimer, who organized enough votes to block the House from putting back in the safeguards. Pelosi caved, putting the Senate bill on the floor for an up or down vote. It passed strongly, with 129 Democrats supporting it.
This was an all-around debacle. Schumer did nothing to back up the Democratic position. The centrists fought to give Trump a blank check. And Pelosi got herself backed into a corner to such a degree that she simply accepted a bill her majority had no hand in writing. House Democrats had leverage over the process that they squandered. In the end, a week of disgusting images at the border that repulsed a nation ended with Trump getting more money to carry out the same abuses, without accountability.
It calls into question whether last November’s victory signified any real change, and raises ominous questions about next year’s efforts. If Democrats don’t have the backs of children sleeping in cages, whose backs will they have?