Rosa DeLauro CSPAN
Rosa DeLauro CSPAN

WASHINGTON – Rep. Rosa DeLauro on Tuesday accused Republican members of an appropriations committee of “cowardice” because they postponed consideration of a bill Democrats planned to amend with provisions targeting the separation of immigrant families at the border.

The bill in question would fund the Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, which takes custody of separated immigrant children, and several other federal agencies.

“Republicans are afraid to debate the crisis the Trump administration has created at the border, separating more than 2,300 children from their parents through an inhumane zero-tolerance policy,” DeLauro, D-3rd District said. “(Democrats) are ready with more than a dozen amendments on issues like reunifying children with their parents, expanding mental health services, keeping siblings together, and conducting proper oversight. But Republicans refuse to even show up.”

DeLauro is the highest-ranking Democrat on the appropriations subcommittee that provides funding for HHS, the Education Department, the Labor Department and a few smaller agencies.  She was one of 25 Democratic lawmakers who toured a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in McAllen, Texas, and the Port Isabel immigration processing center in Brownsville, Texas last weekend.

Committee consideration of a bill that would fund those agencies was postponed by Appropriations Committee Republicans last week, and again this week.

Jennifer Hing, spokeswoman for Republicans on the committee, said the congressional softball game and several votes the day the bill was scheduled for consideration last week ate up a lot of the time the committee needed.

“We wouldn’t have gotten done in time before members left for the week,” Hing said.

This week, she said, consideration of the bill was postponed due to scheduling conflicts with the Defense Appropriations bill that was being considered on the House floor.

Committee Republicans plan to take up the bill after the week-long July 4th recess.

DeLauro insisted there was plenty of time to consider the bill before the break.

“This was cowardice and fear of having a conversation about a policy that separates mothers from their children,” she said. “It could have been done easily today.”

DeLauro also said GOP lawmakers do not want to be on the record voting against amendments that would stop family separations at the border.

On Wednesday, the U.S. House plans to vote on a wide ranging immigration bill that would stop family separations by keeping children in detention for an undetermined length of time.

There are few details of the latest version of the bill, which was still under negotiation Tuesday afternoon. It is considered a compromise between GOP moderates and  hardliners on immigration. Democrats have been united against the legislation.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said the bill would fund Trump’s border wall, “provide real border security” and strengthen immigration enforcement inside the United States.

Previous versions of the bill have included nearly $25 billion to build President Donald Trump’s border wall between the United States and Mexico and provide a pathway to citizenship for young, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children by their parents. These immigrant youth are known as “dreamers.”

The previous bills also made changes to immigration law that would decrease the number of people allowed to come legally to the United States. Those bills would keep immigrant families together with a provision that waives the current 20-day limit for children to be in detention.

There is no guarantee the bill will pass. A more hardline GOP immigration bill failed in the U.S. House last week.

“Members are trying to get an agreement, nothing has been reached yet,” Scalise said. “But we are still going forward with the vote.”

Meanwhile, in the U.S. Senate, GOP lawmakers are considering action on a bill solely focused on allowing children to be detained for longer periods of time with their parents.

A Senate Republican leadership spokesman said the proposed legislation is still in the “idea” stage.

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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