“I am looking for a new pharmaceutical drug that builds spines.”
That was Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s (D-Wash.) reaction on Thursday after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi capitulated to Republicans and so-called moderate Democrats by agreeing to pass a $4.6 billion Senate border aid package that contains virtually no protections for immigrant children detained by the Trump administration.
“Skating under the radar are Schumer and Senate Democrats, who deserve just as much blame for their spinelessness, who gifted McConnell his leverage.”
—Alexander McCoy, Common Defense
While Jayapal and other progressives were quick to note that Pelosi deserves criticism for approving the Senate legislation—which was strongly opposed by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and immigrant rights groups—they argued Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) should share the blame for failing to whip his caucus against the measure.
On Wednesday, the Senate passed the $4.6 billion Republican border bill by an 84-8 margin. Thirty-three Democrats—including Schumer—voted yes, handing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) an easy victory.
Progressive Democrats said Schumer’s failure to fight the Republican legislation left the House with no leverage to negotiate stronger protections for migrant children, who are currently enduring horrific conditions in Border Patrol detention facilities in Texas and elsewhere.
After Pelosi announced Thursday that she would “reluctantly” support passage of the GOP Senate bill despite progressive outrage, the legislation sailed through the House Thursday evening with the backing of 129 Democrats.
“Listen,” Jayapal told reporters, “I think Leader Schumer and all the Senate Democrats have to understand that we need them to stand up and oppose.”
Jayapal also slammed Pelosi’s decision to give in to McConnell and so-called “moderate” Democrats an interview with Politico, saying: “We can’t say that we have a lawless administration or a president who should be in prison, or whatever people want to say about him, but then cave. You have to fight for what you believe.”
Jayapal’s anger at the Democratic leadership for refusing to fight the Senate bill was echoed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who said Pelosi’s decision to capitulate to McConnell was an unacceptable “abdication of power” that will give the Trump administration a blank check to continue harming children at the border.
“The problem right now and the question at hand is Mitch McConnell sent us a bill and we’re putting a big checkmark on it instead of even trying to negotiate,” Ocasio-Cortez, who opposed all new funding for Trump’s deportation force, said during an interview on CNN. “What Mitch McConnell is doing is that he’s relying on the time pressure of [July 4] recess to try to ram through a bill that is completely irresponsible.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) also spoke out against the passage of the package and said the funding bill was a wasted opportunity to help children who remain in dire need:
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