Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 11, 2016

Mikulski Set to Unveil Emergency Spending for Immigration Crisis (Video)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski plans to introduce a $3.57 billion emergency supplemental spending package on Wednesday.

The Maryland Democrat’s emergency bill primarily deals with the crisis of unaccompanied migrant children, but it also would provide funding for fighting wildfires and make a payment to Israel for the Iron Dome missile defense system. A Senate Democratic aide said the package is expected to reach the Senate floor early next week, which would make it one of many pieces of a pre-recess push.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had deferred to Mikulski in regards to announcing the plan earlier Tuesday.

“The bill is a responsible solution. It provides a total of $3.57 billion to meet essential and immediate needs,” Mikulski said in a statement. “The total amount of the President’s request will be needed. However, based on a review of what is needed in calendar year 2014 to meet needs at the border, the bill reduces the President’s request by $1 billion.”

The aide stressed that the legislative proposal is an emergency funding bill, not a policy bill — and accordingly it is not being drafted to include immigration law changes such as modifications to a 2008 law sought by Republicans and some Democrats.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters earlier Tuesday that policy changes would be needed to get GOP support.

“What I think I can safely say virtually everybody I’ve heard in our conference discuss is that throwing money at the problem is not going to fix it,” McConnell said, without commenting specifically on support for a proposal from Texas Republican Ted Cruz to overturn Obama’s executive action regarding an earlier group of unauthorized immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told reporters that Republicans planned to meet in an effort to unite around one policy position.

The biggest pieces of Mikulski’s plan would provide $1.1 billion to the Homeland Security Department for handling their responsibilities related to the crisis, while $1.2 billion would go to Health and Human Services for treatment, care, housing and other services for the children involved. The aide said the money is needed immediately since several departments and agencies involved will soon run short of money. HHS has already exhausted transfer authority, the aide said.

Mikulski is increasing some accounts from the Obama administration’s request, seeking to provide for 10 additional immigration judges and funds for legal services for the migrant children beyond the request.

The wildfire money totals $615 million, as Obama had asked for. The aide said that while there was not a formal budgetary request for the Iron Dome money, the Pentagon did request it in a letter.

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