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McConnell jams Pelosi on border spending package

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday set up votes on the House bill, the Senate bill and an amendment to cut spending in order to pay for the Senate’s bill. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

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Senate Republicans plan to force House Democrats to accept their bill or get nothing done as the humanitarian crisis worsens.

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Senate Republicans are looking to jam House Democrats on a much-needed cash infusion for the southern border, arguing the Senate’s bill is the only thing that can become law and win President Donald Trump’s signature.

After a furious whipping effort from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the House on Tuesday passed a $ 4.5 billion spending measure that also provides more protections for migrants and less enforcement funding than requested by the administration.

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But GOP leaders plan to pass their own legislation Wednesday and vote down the House bill, leaving Pelosi with a take-it-or-leave-it proposition heading into the July Fourth recess.

“Most of what [the administration] wants, with few exceptions, is in the Senate bill, which came out of the committee with a big bipartisan vote and will hopefully have a big bipartisan vote on the floor this afternoon,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the GOP whip. “We’ll pass the bill today, the House is still here. They can easily take it up, put it on the president’s desk and get his signature.”

Added Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), “They should take ours. The House one is not adequate.” Trump has already threatened to veto the House-passed bill.

Pelosi called up Trump and spoke to him for 15 minutes on Wednesday afternoon in a bid to convince the president to reconcile the two competing bills, according to a Democratic aide.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday set up votes on the House bill, the Senate bill and an amendment from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to cut spending in order to pay for the Senate’s bill. The House bill, which won over only three GOP lawmakers, cannot pass the Senate, Republicans say.

Democrats may not look too kindly on those options.

Both the House and Senate bill bar Trump from spending the money on the border wall, though the House bill restores foreign aid cuts to Central America and has additional guardrails aimed at improving the standard of care for migrant children and limiting the time they can be held in detention facilities.

But if the Senate does pass its own legislation, it would likely force Pelosi into a corner — take up the Senate bill, which might pass with bipartisan support, or dismiss the House for a weeklong recess without addressing the mushrooming humanitarian crisis.

Republicans say they do not want to enter into lengthy negotiations to reconcile the two bills amid grim news reports of migrants dying or being kept in horrific conditions in detention centers.

Both Pelosi and her top lieutenant, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), spoke positively about the Senate version on Tuesday and declined to rule out passing that measure.

“The Senate has a good bill. Our bill is much better,” Pelosi said.

“I think most think [the House bill is] preferable to the Senate bill. Although the Senate bill is not a bad bill either,” Hoyer said.

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Senate Democratic leaders are not publicly pressuring Pelosi to pass the Senate’s legislation.

“I can’t tell the House what to do,” said Senate Appropriations ranking member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

“The House passed its version last night. It’s a much better bill than the Senate version,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “We should take up the House bill here in the Senate and send something to the president as soon as possible and then make sure the administration uses funds to improve the conditions at the border immediately.”

Judging by the scarce GOP support in the House for Pelosi’s bill, however, it appears it would fail in the Senate. Cornyn says it has “no chance.”

For that reason, a vote on Pelosi’s border bill might make the Senate’s case that its bipartisan measure is the only one that can be signed into law.

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