U.S. Senate passes border aid bill, heads to battle against House




The U.S.-Mexico border near Nogales. Photo by Steeve Hise | Creative Commons

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved its own $4.6 billion humanitarian aid package for the southern U.S. border, setting up a clash with U.S. House lawmakers who passed a dramatically different version the night before. 

The Senate version passed on a vote of 84-8 with broad bipartisan support after the chamber voted to reject the House version. 

The aid package has become the latest battleground over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. Government officials say the cash influx is urgently needed as agencies run low on funding needed to care for migrants, but Democrats and Republicans are divided over how much leeway to give the administration in using the funds to pursue its policy agenda.

Both of Arizona’s U.S. senators, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally, voted for the bill. Sinema touted her role in getting three provisions included in the bill: $55 million to hire 30 additional immigration judges, $30 million for grants to nonprofit organizations that provide aid to migrants who are in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and a requirement that the Government Accountability Office compile a report aimed at processing credible fear claims, which play a critical role in asylum applications, within 20 days.

“I am working across the aisle to stop the flow of migrants, ensure the fair and humane treatment of migrants currently here, and boost resources so migrants who do not qualify to stay in America quickly return home,” Sinema said in a press statement on Wednesday.

Six Senate Democrats voted against the aid package that ultimately passed the chamber: Mazie Hirono of Hawaii; Ed Markey of Massachusetts; Robert Menendez of New Jersey; Jeff Merkley of Oregon; Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Ron Wyden of Oregon. 

“We are not going to stop the Trump administration’s inhumane and hateful assault on immigrants by giving more money to ICE and CBP,” Markey wrote on Twitter. “We must take a stand and say no more. That’s why today I voted NO on the border funding packages.”

Two Republicans voted against the bill: Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky. 

Another eight senators didn’t vote, including seven Democratic presidential candidates. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) also did not vote. 

The House version passed Tuesday night, largely along party lines. That $4.5 billion aid bill includes more health and safety protections for migrants and more congressional oversight requirements.

Trump has pledged to veto the House version, and administration officials have said it would hamper their enforcement activities at the border.

The Senate rejected the House version earlier on Wednesday by a vote of 37-55. Sinema voted for the bill, while McSally voted against it.

Congressional leaders said they wanted to finalize the aid bill before lawmakers head home for the Fourth of July recess, but it’s unclear whether the chambers will be able to reconcile their differences in time. 

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