Democrats And Republicans Agree Border Crisis Exists, But Differ On Allocating Funds

Jun 25, 2019
Originally published on June 25, 2019 10:15 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now let's turn to Capitol Hill, where Democrats and Republicans mostly agree that there is a crisis on the border. Both sides say they want to make sure agencies have the resources they need to provide proper care for migrants. Those agencies have warned that they are running out of money, and Congress has promised to pass a funding bill before the week is out. But that's complicated. The House and Senate are working on different bills with different ideas about how the money should be spent.

NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell has been following this back and forth. Hi, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi, there.

SHAPIRO: How do the House and Senate bills differ?

SNELL: Well, I think we should actually start with where they are similar because they are really similar. They both have about $4.5 billion in aid, and it's mostly for humanitarian aid. And the majority of the money would go to the Department of Health and Human Services for refugee resettlement, and that portion of HHS really focuses on money for these unaccompanied minors who are coming to the border.

The thing that makes things different is that Democrats want to add more restrictions. They don't want to give money specifically to the Department of Defense or to some Border Patrol and immigration agents. And they want restrictions on how the money can be spent - all of the money. They don't trust the administration, and they say they're worried that, you know - that the Trump administration will take the money and use it for something else.

Now, progressives and members of the Hispanic Caucus say they want to make sure the bill goes even further to make sure that there are consequences and restrictions.

SHAPIRO: Consequences and restrictions meaning what, exactly? What are they asking for?

SNELL: Well, it seemed like there was some agreement this morning on changes to require agencies to come up with new rules and minimum standards for care and treatment on their own and that it would've had a cap on how long children could stay in the temporary shelters like the one we've been hearing a lot about in Texas.

But the progressives have been negotiating with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said earlier that the House will vote on a bill today. And the thing that they really want, according to Pramila Jayapal, the Progressive Caucus co-chair, is that they want to set the standards themselves. They want Congress to have that control, and they want to have immediate consequences for the companies that operate the detention centers if they don't follow the rules. Here's what she said.

PRAMILA JAYAPAL: There's no waiver for food and water and basic medical facilities and certain things that we've now outlined in it, specifically. And then if they still aren't meeting those conditions in six months, their contract is terminated and they cannot reapply.

SNELL: So Congress sets the rules, and if the companies don't meet them, they get cut. And Jayapal says that Pelosi agrees with her, and most progressives would get on board with the bill if the changes are made.

SHAPIRO: In another part of the program, we're going to hear from one of the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. How are Senate Republicans responding to those demands?

SNELL: You know, they're not responding to them directly. They are basically saying that they want to see what the House can actually pass, and that's probably important because they want to make sure Pelosi can get a deal here. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is warning that he has something the Democrats don't, and that is the president's support. Here's what he said.

MITCH MCCONNELL: I believe - somebody correct me if I'm wrong - that the administration opposes what I think the House is going to do on the border supplemental.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Correct.

MCCONNELL: We believe that they support what we're going to do. And the idea here is to get a signature.

SNELL: And a signature means a bill becomes a law, and that's pretty important here. And there's general agreement that these agencies are running out of money, so getting a signature quickly is of the utmost concern for a lot of members of Congress.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Kelsey Snell. Thanks a lot, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.