Before leaving for the summer break, members of the House and Senate failed to agree on an emergency supplemental spending bill that would provide additional funds to deal with the child refugee crisis along the U.S. border.
Senate Republicans killed the Senate version of the bill (S 2648) that would have provided $1.2 billion for Health & Human Services Dept. (HHS) programs for housing and basic needs and services for the children. The remainder of the $2.7 billion in the bill for the humanitarian crisis would have been used for more border enforcement, to add more judges and legal teams to process cases, to transfer children to more appropriate family settings, and to seek better international solutions. Republican Senators objected to the funds being deemed as emergency spending, meaning offsetting cuts were not required.
After the GOP-led House flip-flopped on whether to vote on its drastically scaled-back border supplemental spending bill (HR 5230), it was eventually approved — under a White House veto threat — that critics said would actually make things on the border worse, not better.
Outlook: Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL) said Congress may add the supplemental funding to a continuing resolution expected in September but, administration officials said that funds to deal with the crisis will start to dry up in mid-August. Without additional funding, the administration may have to do additional shifting of funds within federal agencies, an act known as reprograming, to cover basic functions for the children. Some shifting has already been done; HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement shifted $94 million from refugee services programs to deal with the border crisis, and $44 million has been shifted from places like the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are limits on how much money can be shifted within an appropriation, and it’s unclear how much more can be done in FY 2014.