House Democrats abruptly halted debate on their border crisis spending bill Thursday, suggesting deep divisions as Speaker Nancy Pelosi tries to figure out how to speed money to help children while also appeasing left-wing lawmakers who don’t want to be seen giving President Trump a victory.
Lawmakers spent more than an hour of floor debate on rules to govern debate on the actual spending bill, then Democrats suddenly withdrew the rules. That usually signals they didn’t have the votes to pass it.
Mrs. Pelosi hinted at the divisions earlier in the day in a letter to colleagues, pleading with them to remain unified in order to have “leverage” as they battle the Senate and White House.
House Democrats passed a partisan $4.5 billion border funding bill earlier this week, granting Mr. Trump most of the money he wanted, but deleting key funding for ICE and the Defense Department and adding new restrictions what can be done at the border.
Senators, in a bipartisan vote Wednesday, rejected the House bill, then passed their own version that is more to Mr. Trump’s liking. That bill passed on an 84-8 vote — a stunning show of unity in a chamber where bipartisanship has been hard to find in recent months.
Mrs. Pelosi began Thursday insisting Democrats would respond with another bill.
“We are calling upon the Trump Administration and the Senate to engage in an immediate conference to do the best we can for the children before we leave for the 4th of July,” she said in her letter to Democrats, adding, “Our leverage with the Senate and the administration is strengthened by the unity of House Democrats.”
Among her demands were surprise congressional inspections of detention facilities, restrictions on what kinds of facilities migrant children can be held in, and cuts to money intended to go to the Pentagon and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who are helping with the border surge.
Republicans say some changes would be allowed, but rejected Democrats’ attacks on the ICE and Pentagon money, calling them left-wing dreams.
Vice President Mike Pence spoke with Mrs. Pelosi for nearly an hour Thursday about the border bill, an administration official confirmed.
They discussed potential future “administrative fixes,” but the vice president made clear the White House position is that the House needs to pass the Senate bill, the official said.
The Democrats’ hand was weakened Thursday when some of Mrs. Pelosi’s moderate lawmakers said they’d be willing to vote for the Senate bill if given the chance.
“It is an emergency on the border right now. We need to get money to the border as soon as possible,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy, Florida Democrat. “The fastest way for us to get necessary money to the border is to take up the Senate bill.”
Mrs. Pelosi finds herself in the same position as Republicans earlier this decade, when they held the House and battled President Obama and a Democratic Senate.
The House GOP usually surrendered those fights.
• Dave Boyer contributed to this story.
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