- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The House’s Homeland Security funding bill for next year includes $5 billion for border security efforts, including new “barrier construction” along the U.S.-Mexico border — easily outpacing the Senate’s version, which sets aside $1.6 billion for fencing along the southern border.

The bill, unveiled Wednesday, had been the last of the 12 annual funding measures for 2019 released by House Republicans, and it’s perhaps the most contentious amid the divisive immigration debate in Washington.

The $5 billion would be for “physical barriers and associated technology along the U.S. southern border,” including $126 million for border technology, according to Republicans on the committee.

Rep. Kevin Yoder, Kansas Republican, said the bill takes “the largest steps in years” toward fulfilling pledges to secure the southern border.

“We add funding for more than 200 miles of physical barrier, hundreds of new immigration and customs enforcement agents, and state of the art technology that will give our law enforcement agencies the tools they need to keep us safe,” said Mr. Yoder, chairman of the Appropriations homeland security subcommittee.

President Trump praised Mr. Yoder for his work in a tweet endorsing the congressman for re-election Wednesday.

“Thank you to Congressman Kevin Yoder! He secured $5 BILLION for Border Security. Now we need Congress to support,” the president tweeted.

The White House also weighed in officially Wednesday evening, saying the administration “strongly supports” the inclusion of the $5 billion.

The administration also urged Congress to take a look at making cuts elsewhere “so that national priorities like border security and immigration enforcement can be fully funded without further jeopardizing the nation’s fiscal well-being,” said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Overall, the House bill provides $51.4 billion in discretionary spending for the Department of Homeland Security —- a $3.7 billion increase from current year funding. The bill includes $7.4 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement — $328 million above the current levels — including $78 million to hire over 400 additional law enforcement officers and support staff.

It includes $4.1 billion for detention and removal programs, including 44,000 detention beds, or 3,480 more than the current year.

Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican and an immigration hard-liner, said the $5 billion for the specific efforts at the border was a “good start.”

“That’s a pretty good bite. That’ll get us going a ways,” Mr. King said. “I’ll support border [wall] funding about any way we can get it.”

House Democrats, meanwhile, have cast Mr. Trump’s desired border wall as an unnecessary boondoggle and vowed to oppose the legislation, calling it “completely unacceptable.”

Meanwhile the Senate’s 2019 Homeland Security funding bill, which cleared committee last month on a 26-5 vote, provides $1.6 billion for 65 miles of fencing in the Rio Grande Valley Sector.

Mr. Trump told lawmakers last month he planned to ask for more wall spending “so we can finish it quicker,” and at least one Republican lawmaker has said the president informally suggested the $5 billion figure recently.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, who is chairwoman of the Appropriations homeland security subcommittee, said the $1.6 billion figure is in line with what the White House has officially requested.

“So we acceded to that,” said the West Virginia Republican. “We’re going to see what this $5 billion consists of that the House has.”

Republicans can muscle through spending bills in the House with only GOP votes, but they don’t have that luxury in the Senate with the threat of a Democratic filibuster, meaning the final product will have to attract at least some support from Democrats.

The recent debate over immigration has stretched well beyond the fight over the border wall.

The House on Wednesday approved a non-binding resolution to support ICE, amid calls from some in the far left to completely abolish the agency. Lawmakers are also weighing various proposals to address the child separation crisis at the border.

“We take concrete steps to keep families together at the border, enforcing our immigration laws humanely and responsibly,” Mr. Yoder said.

Still, Mr. Trump has hinted in recent months that he’d welcome a shutdown showdown ahead of the next government funding deadline at the end of September if he doesn’t get enough border wall money in next year’s spending bill.

But the president has already given up the game to a certain extent by signing appropriations bills in the past that didn’t necessarily meet his own standards on that front — including the $1.3 trillion “omnibus” spending bill in March, said Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

“The pattern at this point is for President Trump to angrily blast these appropriations bills but, ultimately, sign them. I don’t see any indication that that would be any different,” Mr. Riedl said.

“That said, predicting President Trump’s next move is definitely a challenge,” he added.

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