The House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee on Tuesday morning approved by voice vote along party lines a $50.7 billion spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security in fiscal year 2021, the dividing line between Democrats and Republicans being a zeroing of funding for a border wall and a sharp reduction in funding for immigration enforcement.
The same divisions have plagued previous DHS spending bills during the presidency of Trump, who campaigned in 2016 on a promise to build a new border wall along the southern border and get tougher on illegal immigration. Differences between congressional Democrats and Republicans on these issues have held up timely passage of recent DHS spending bills and may do so again against the backdrop of the presidential and congressional elections this fall.
Subcommittee Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) and ranking member Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) at the outset of the markup agreed there are a lot of areas of agreement in the bill but, where there are disagreements, they are major.
“There are, of course, areas of disagreement, almost entirely in the immigration area,” Roybal-Allard said in her opening remarks. “I do believe, however, that most of our bill represents a bipartisan agreement. But I don’t want to minimize the disagreements on immigration. They are significant, and they are important.”
Fleischmann, in his opening statement, said that “But sadly, also like last year, in the places where we disagree, Madam Chairman, there are vast differences, and I just can’t support the bill in its current form.”
Among those differences, he said, are the elimination of the $2 billion requested for the border wall and the recission of all funding last year for the wall.
“This wall is necessary in so many places along the southwest border,” he said.
The proposed bill, which will be taken up sometime next week by the full committee, also prohibits the administration from transferring funds between accounts and mostly prevents authority to reprogram funds within accounts, Roybal-Allard said. That’s because the administration “violated” an understanding with the committee last year by undertaking a significant transferring and reprogramming toward immigration enforcement, she said.
To make up for a shortfall in Customs and Border Protection user fees due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, DHS recently proposed taking existing funds from “bipartisan congressional priorities as offsets” to close the gap, Roybal-Allard said. She didn’t disclose the amount of the transfer and reprogramming request nor specifics on the targeted priorities to be raided.
A federal union president told Congress recently that CBP is facing a $400 million shortfall in user fees for the rest of FY ‘20 and at least $1.5 billion in FY ’21.
The HAC HS markup proposes significant increases in funding for border security technology, Coast Guard acquisition and readiness, cyber security, and disaster relief.