The House Wednesday approved a standalone border-security spending bill in an attempt to overcome obstruction to an earlier attempt by Senate Republicans on a day when the issue of immigration was heating up.
Lawmakers approved legislation authored by Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) which would fund 1,700 new Customs and Border Patrol agents and officers to go to the Southwest U.S. border to address ongoing threats from Mexican drug cartels and improve operations at U.S. ports of entry.
Total funding in the bill is $701 million, with $201 million of that total offset by cuts elsewhere in the Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department budgets, according to a statement from Price’s office. Price is the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s homeland security subcommittee.
Amid a backdrop of a federal judge striking down key provisions of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the Price bill a key component of immigration reform and dressed down the GOP for playing “politics with the security of the American homeland.”
The House earlier this month approved border funding as part of a larger war-spending supplemental bill, but Republicans in the Senate blocked it and therefore the supplemental sent to President Obama’s desk this week to be signed into law doesn’t include funding for border security, Pelosi says.
Senate Republicans last week refused to allow the addition of border funds to the war funding bill, Price says. That required House Democrats to take a different approach to fund the border initiative. “With Mexican drug cartels engaging in unprecedented levels of violence, we can’t afford to play politics with the security of the American homeland,” Pelosi adds.
The House vote came on the same day that U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton struck down the most contested provisions in the Arizona state immigration law which is to take effect Thursday.
The Obama administration challenged the Arizona statute in court at a time when Democrats also are seeking to enact comprehensive immigration reform which is opposed by most Republicans. Many opponents argue that Arizona’s law amounts to legalized racial profiling.
Supporters of the Arizona law, including Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, have argued the statute is needed because federal enforcement of the southern border has been too lax.
Bolton agreed with the administration’s contention that the Arizona state law would intrude on the federal government’s ability to enforce immigration.
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.