Emergency border funding OK’d after moderate Democrats, including Rep. Ben McAdams, force Nancy Pelosi to take up Senate bill

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Rep. Ben McAdams meets with The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board, April 24, 2019. The moderate Democrat was part of a successful effort to force House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to take up a Senate bill on delivering emergency aide to the border.

Washington • The House on Thursday passed a Senate-led emergency funding bill for the southern border after moderate Democrats, including Utah Rep. Ben McAdams, revolted against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her plans to take up her own legislation that was doomed in the Senate.

Pelosi abandoned her bill and the House overwhelmingly supported the $4.6 billion package 305-102 to pour money into solving the humanitarian crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border where hundreds of migrant children are detained – and sometimes in troubling conditions.

President Donald Trump is expected to sign the measure.

Pelosi, a California Democrat, had sought to bring up a Democratic version of the aid package that included restrictions and more oversight of how the money would be spent but McAdams and other centrists argued the House should just take up a measure that won overwhelming, bipartisan support in the Senate on Wednesday.

“In order to get resources to the children fastest, we will reluctantly pass the Senate bill,” Pelosi said. “As we pass the Senate bill, we will do so with a Battle Cry as to how we go forward to protect children in a way that truly honors their dignity and worth.”

Utah's other House members, Reps. Rob Bishop, John Curtis and Chris Stewart, all Republicans, supported the Senate measure.

McAdams, a freshman, said once Congress passed funding, it could then “hold people accountable for using the funds as intended” and move on to reform the immigration system.

“Children are suffering at the border and we must act now to stop it,” McAdams said in a tweet. “The House should vote to approve the Senate version of the bill that addresses the Central American refugee crisis at the border and helps the kids living in unsafe and unacceptable conditions.”

After the vote, McAdams said passing the Senate bill was the best move. “These Central American refugees are living in unacceptable conditions, and they need the funding in this bill for medical care, and additional food and shelter in state-licensed facilities,” he said.

The bill is aimed at addressing the border crisis fueled by a sudden increase of immigrants fleeing violence and poverty in Central America.

The measure includes billions for a refugee resettlement agency tasked with caring for minors who came across the border without parents or those who have been separated from their families.

Curtis said he was glad Democrats came to their senses and brought up the Senate bill so that money could be available immediately to help with the border issues.

“The images we’ve seen at the border have been horrifying,” he said in a statement. “Congress still has a lot of work to do on securing our border and fixing our outdated immigration laws. I stand ready to work with my colleagues on long-term solutions.”

The Senate had passed the measure 84-8.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, voted for the Senate border bill but his Utah Republican colleague, Sen. Mike Lee, opposed it.

“If I thought this bill would begin to solve the crisis on our southern border, I would vote for it,” Lee said in a statement. “Unfortunately, I believe this legislation will not reduce the number of migrants illegally crossing the border and will continue to put vulnerable children at risk.”

Lee said the bill places requirements on Customs and Border Protection that are not feasible.