- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that Democrats will approve money to help alleviate the border crisis, and said a bill can get done by the end of this month, before the Health and Human Services Department runs out of money to care for immigrant children who are in the U.S. illegally.

“We’ll have to have a supplemental because the needs are so great,” Mrs. Pelosi told reporters.

House Democrats are playing catch-up to Senate Republicans, who said this week they’ll put a bill up for a vote in committee next week.

All sides are rushing an end-of-June deadline set by the HHS, which said unless it gets more money it will have to cut from refugee services and assistance programs for victims of human trafficking in order to care for the immigrant children put in its care under the law.

President Trump has asked for $4.5 billion in emergency money to deal with the current border surge, with the majority of that earmarked to replenish funds at HHS.

Other money would go to improve the bed space for families and children while they’re still in border custody.

A final chunk of cash would help U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold adult immigrants snared crossing the border illegally or caught living in the interior without permission — 90% of whom have criminal records.

Democrats, reluctant to be seen voting to boost ICE, have said that money is a non-starter. They blocked attempts to add the $4.5 billion to a disaster funding bill approved last week, and rejected efforts by Republicans to try to force a vote on the president’s package Thursday.

Mrs. Pelosi did not say how much Democrats will offer when they write a bill, nor did she say what it will cover. But she did warn they’ll be wary of Republican “poison pill” offers that she said could sour the conversations about getting a bill done.

Republicans say it’s Democrats who are proposing poison pills by demanding new restrictions be attached to the money to stop the HHS from sharing information with the Homeland Security Department when social workers encounter deportation targets.

Republicans say there’s no money for Mr. Trump’s border wall or other tough crackdown policies in the bill, saying it is focused on providing better conditions.

In a letter Wednesday, the heads of the Health and Homeland Security departments said they need the money now.

As of Monday, HHS had just 700 free beds, while Homeland Security reported 1,900 children ready to be transferred.

Health officials say they’re shipping children out of their care to sponsors at a record-pace, but it’s still not enough to accommodate the overwhelming numbers coming across each day.

Already the dorms that contract with HHS to house the children have been told to cut back on nonessentials, as the government tries to stretch its funds. That move drew complaints from Democrats, but Health Secretary Alex M. Azar II and acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin K. McAleenan said their budgets are at the breaking point and there aren’t any other options.

Mr. McAleenan said unless his department gets more money, it will have to cut funding and shift manpower from the Transportation Security Administration, the Coast Guard, emergency management and other branches.

“This is a full-fledged crisis and everybody knows it,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

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