Congress appeared poised this week for yet another tense partisan standoff and cynical inaction over a supplemental spending bill to deal with border security and the dramatic increase in illegal aliens being detained after illegally crossing the U.S. southern border.
That sure seemed to be the case when the Democrat-led House passed along party lines a $4.5 billion bill that included a number of provisions strictly limiting how the Trump administration could use the new funds — but then the Senate passed a bipartisan bill of its own that unexpectedly broke the purposeful Democratic logjam.
Senate holds firm
The Trump administration requested more border funding back in May, a move the Democrats initially ignored as they repeatedly dismissed the notion that there was a “crisis” at the border at all.
That border emergency has grown undeniable now, however, so Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi passed a one-sided House bill along party lines that offered some additional funding with all sorts of caveats and strings attached.
That bill needed 60 votes in the Republican-controlled Senate to pass and move to the White House for the president’s signature, but fell far short and only received 37 votes in support and 55 votes in opposition.
Rather than give up, however, Republican and Democrat senators worked together and quickly produced a $4.5 billion spending package of its own that didn’t include all of the partisan strings and restrictions as the House bill, and it passed with overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle.
That bill was then sent back to House for a vote where it initially appeared there would be a stalemate and a bicameral conference committee would have to get together to attempt to work out a compromise, an increasingly unlikely proposition in the current divided era.
However, reportedly under pressure from moderates anxious to put the partisan fighting on the issue behind them, Pelosi actually brought the Senate bill to the floor for a vote, where it passed by a comfortable bipartisan margin of 305-102.
The $4.5 billion Senate bill, which includes $3 billion in desperately needed humanitarian aid for the large numbers of migrants held in temporary detention facilities near the border, now awaits only President Trump’s signature to become law.
At the start of the week, it sure seemed like nothing would be accomplished by the do-nothing Congress as House Democrats purposefully loaded down their proposed spending bill with all sorts of provisions they knew Republicans and President Trump wouldn’t support, likely with the intent to spike the effort and continue to use the worsening border issue as a political cudgel to attack the president.
But, rather astonishingly, the Senate worked quickly in a bipartisan manner to produce a relatively clean spending bill of their own that few could protest, a move that — combined with pressure from moderate House Democrats — forced Pelosi’s hand and removed the border issue from the table for the time being.
This was an amazing — and increasingly rare — display of common sense bipartisanship by a Senate that finally decided to address a growing problem instead of simply allowing it to continue festering or attempting to use it as a partisan weapon against the president.