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House Homeland Security panel debates another GOP border bill

Chairman Mark E. Green of Tennessee indicated all Republicans on the committee support his 68-page legislation

Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., is seen outside a House Republican Steering Committee meeting earlier this year.
Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., is seen outside a House Republican Steering Committee meeting earlier this year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The top Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee tore into Republican-led border security legislation that he called “profoundly immoral,” previewing a partisan clash at a Wednesday markup over the key Republican issue.

Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi said in his opening remarks at the markup that the proposed bill “would sow chaos at the border by essentially shutting down the asylum process.”

Thompson took issue particularly with provisions in the Republican-led bill that would strip government funding from nonprofits that provide certain humanitarian assistance to migrants.

Chairman Mark E. Green of Tennessee proposed the 68-page bill that aims to beef up security technology at the border, a key focus of the House Republican majority amid high levels of migration.

Last week, the Judiciary Committee after an all-day markup advanced counterpart legislation that would restrict asylum access at the border and ramp up penalties for immigration violations.

Green indicated at the Wednesday meeting that his committee’s bill has the support of all Republicans on the panel, and said the bill was introduced by him and “all my Republican colleagues on the committee.”

The legislation, released on Monday, would restart construction of the border wall, increase the number of Border Patrol agents and modernize border security technology.

It would also prevent Customs and Border Protection from allowing migrants to schedule appointments at the border to make asylum claims via the CBP One app, which was recently expanded for that purpose. The bill would permit the app to be used “only for inspection of perishable cargo.”

Thompson criticized his Republican counterparts failing to consult with Democrats about the bill and instead sharing the text with them at the last minute. “That’s just not how we’ve done things around here. That’s not how we should do things,” Thompson said.

Green said at the Wednesday meeting that the Homeland Security and Judiciary Committee bills “must move together,” indicating the two committees’ bills would later be combined.

However, it’s unclear how the two border bills – either separately or together – would fare on the floor.

One Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, joined Democrats in voting against advancing that panel’s legislation.

Several House Republicans, including Homeland Security Committee member Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas, have previously raised concerns that earlier Republican-led border security proposals have gone too far in restricting asylum.

Gonzales said at the Wednesday meeting that the Homeland Security Committee bill is a “great start.”

But Gonzales told reporters last week that there are “a lot of members that have a lot of issues” with the Judiciary Committee’s border bill. Gonzales has also said he would vote against raising the debt ceiling “if bills come on the floor that are going to strip away the few legal [migration] paths that we have.”

Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., can lose no more than four Republican votes to pass party-line legislation on the floor, assuming full attendance.

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