House Democrats failed in a last-minute attempt Friday to prohibit funds allocated to the Defense Department's $696 billion budget from going toward the construction of the border wall President Donald Trump repeatedly promised to build.
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, led the Democratic charge to reinstate language that House GOP members on the Rules Committee removed from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Tuesday. The nixed language barred the bill from including any funding for a border wall. But the House voted against Lujan Grisham's motion on strict party lines of 235-190. The NDAA subsequently passed the House with a 344-81 vote Friday. A total of 117 Democrats supported bill while eight Republicans voted against it.
"The only way this body can guarantee that Trump cannot use Department of Defense funds to construct the border wall is to put that prohibition in the bill explicitly," Lujan Grisham, who has announced her 2018 candidacy for New Mexico governor, said Friday on the House floor.
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) had blasted the GOP's desire to include a downpayment on border funding in the bill during a speech on the House floor earlier in the week, saying, "Republicans are resorting to deceptive legislative tactics to do Trump's bidding just for his small, fragile ego."
"It's a legislative magic trick, a sneaky gimmick designed to disguise their actions," Gallego said. "We have a ... responsibility to ensure that money meant to address real national security challenges isn't diverted to combat imaginary ones that the president has created."
The House Armed Services Committee adopted the original language banning border wall construction funds in June.
All throughout his campaign, Trump pledged to oversee the building of a border wall as one of the tenets of his platform to boost national security measures and uphold immigration laws. Although Trump claimed he would make Mexico pay for the wall, his efforts have remained fruitless thus far.
Many Democrats, however, have decried the notion of a border wall as inherently racist and a waste of federal dollars. Nixing any distinction between legal and illegal immigrants, congressional Democrats label nearly all of the Trump administration's immigration enforcement measures as anti-immigrant.
But the Democratic obstruction against Trump's immigration policies received a crushing blow Friday when the House struck down Lujan Grisham's motion.
"We could spend all day and night arguing provisions that prohibit what is not in the bill. There's nothing in this bill that authorizes a border wall," Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said on the House floor. "The focus of the bill is the men and women who serve our nation in the military and the national security of the United States."
While moving on from its Friday defeat, Congressional Hispanic Caucus members sent a letter to Senate leadership Friday urging them to reject the "two anti-immigrant bills" the House passed in June: No Sanctuary for Criminals Act and Kate's Law. While the former compels local cooperation with federal agents and their detainer requests for illegal immigrants, the latter would increase the maximum penalties illegal immigrants face when caught repeatedly returning to the U.S. following a deportation.
"Both of these bills undermine Constitutional protections, criminalize the immigrant community and undercut law enforcement's ability to keep our communities safe," the letter signed by Lujan Grisham, Gallego and four others read. "We expect to face many more of these anti-immigrant proposals and we urge you to stand firmly with the CHC against these harmful anti-American proposals."