WASHINGTON - House Democratic leaders are discussing the possibility of a vote later this month on whether to close the southern border, as President Donald Trump has threatened, to force border state lawmakers to take a stand on the president's controversial call.
A senior Democratic House aide said Monday that no decision has been made on whether to go forward with the vote or when to hold it. A second Democratic aide said the vote would probably be held only if Trump moves ahead with his threat.
Trump said Friday that he would close the southern border, or at least large sections of it, this week if Mexico does not halt illegal immigration into the United States. Two of Trump's top aides doubled down on that position Sunday, despite warnings that the move would hurt the country's economy while doing little to stem the influx of migrants from Central America.
The House Democratic plan has echoes of a move by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who held a vote last week on the Green New Deal. The proposal, which would reduce dependence on fossil fuels to fight climate change, has been embraced by some liberals. But it was denied in the Senate in a 57-to-0 vote, with Democrats decrying the vote as a political stunt.
House Democratic appropriators are also exploring another effort to preserve foreign aid funding to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, given their conclusion that Trump does have the power to end the funding by reprogramming it elsewhere.
The State Department last week announced that it would be "ending . . . foreign assistance programs for the Northern Triangle," a region encompassing the three countries. The move would affect nearly $500 million in 2018 funds and millions more left over from the prior fiscal year. The money was destined for Central America but has not yet been spent.
Trump has said he plans to make the move in retaliation against the three countries because they "haven't done a thing for us" in helping to reduce the flow of migrants to the U.S. border.
Under the Democratic legislative plan, the appropriators would draft a bill that rescinds the money and then reappropriates the same funds in a way that would prevent the president from reprogramming it to other priorities.
Trump's plan to close the border came under criticism on Monday from Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a fellow Republican. Ducey said there is an immigration "crisis," but he has told the White House that closing the border is not the solution.
"Well, of course I don't want to see the border closed," Ducey told Phoenix-based KPNX-TV. "I mean, I've said a thousand times or more, Mexico is our most important trading partner times four. So I want to see us continue to be able to trade."