Congress Considers Immigration Proposals as Child Separation Policy Raises Questions
This weekend, the Trump Administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents drew criticism from both sides of the aisle. In the past six weeks, nearly 2,000 children were taken from their parents and housed in temporary detention centers, including one in an abandoned Walmart. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have been reported to separate even younger children from their parents, and there is at least one report of ICE separating a mother from her child while she was breastfeeding.
Forced separation causes severe trauma and long-term psychological damage to children. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and other Democrats visited the detention centers over the weekend and shed light on the poor conditions: children are being kept in metal cages and ICE officers are being instructed to neither hold nor comfort frightened children.
The policy – which is not required by law and is solely a decision from the Trump Administration – is drawing strong criticism from all sides of the political spectrum. Leading conservatives, including former First Lady Laura Bush and religious leaders, have condemned this policy as “cruel” and “immoral.” Nonetheless, Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the forced separation of children from their parents while imploring evangelicals to support the Administration’s policy.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced legislation late last week to immediately end the forced separation policy. Republicans have not yet supported the Feinstein proposal, as they plan to sit down with President Trump on Tuesday to discuss strategy. House leadership is hoping to vote on two Republican-authored proposals later this week – only one of which addresses forced separation of families. Both Republican proposals significantly limit legal immigration, even though similar proposals have failed to garner Democratic support in the past and appear untenable in the Senate.
NWA joins a chorus of national organizations and bipartisan opposition in strongly condemning the separation of children – particularly the separation of breastfeeding mothers from their infants – and calls upon the Administration to reverse this inhumane policy. NWA will continue to update members when Congress moves forward in considering immigration proposals.
Senate Committee Considers Bill to Address Maternal Mortality
With renewed focus on the disturbingly high rates of maternal mortality, Congress is now considering several pieces of legislation to address this pressing health concern. A bipartisan proposal authored by Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) – the Maternal Health Accountability Act – will be considered in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee this Wednesday. The bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services to provide grants to states to support state maternal mortality review committees. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has endorsed the measure, along with its House companion bill, the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act.
Appropriations Process Continues to Move Forward
House and Senate subcommittees continue considering appropriations bills this week. In the Senate, Leader McConnell is expected to start the process of setting up the first vote on an appropriations “minibus” package today. The vote will likely come next week, and may include the same bills as the House-passed package: Military Construction and VA, Energy and Water, and Legislative Branch. So far, no floor votes have been scheduled in the House or Senate on agriculture appropriations, but leadership in both chambers hopes to move the process forward this summer. Read our summary of the appropriations process in last week’s MMR for more details.
Senate Considers $15 Billion Rescission Package, Including Cuts to CHIP
After the House unexpectedly passed a rescission package making significant cuts to CHIP and other program spending earlier this month, the Senate is now considering moving forward with nearly $15 billion in cuts. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) is hoping to move the rescissions package forward, and a vote could be granted this week. The window for Congress to consider the rescissions package sent by the White House will expire at the end of this week. With likely opposition from Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), along with all Senate Democrats, it is unclear if the package would pass the Senate if given a vote.
House Committee Starts FY 2019 Budget Process
This week, House Budget Committee Chairman Steve Womack (R-AR) plans to consider a budget resolution in his committee. Traditionally, budget resolutions set overall spending levels for the federal government and are needed as a prerequisite to appropriations legislation. Since Congress passed a two-year budget deal last year, the need for a budget resolution for FY 2019 is not clear. Budget reconciliations – a special procedure that can be used as part of the budget process and require only a simple majority vote in the Senate – have been used in the past as a vehicle for moving forward with controversial legislation, such as the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. If a budget resolution is passed in the House Budget Committee, it is unclear whether leadership will support its advancement, given the focus on moving forward with appropriations bills based on the two-year budget deal.