News & Politics

Democratic Caucus In Open Warfare Over Border Funding Bill

Democratic Caucus In Open Warfare Over Border Funding Bill
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Pop some popcorn, sit back, relax, and strap it down: Democrats have girded their loins for battle.

The issue de jour is a $4.59 billion supplemental border funding bill, but it could have been anything. What happened in the Democratic caucus had been simmering for two years, forestalled only by the party’s absolute hatred of Donald Trump and a misplaced desire to stick it to the Republicans.

But even anti-Trump hysteria and revenge against the GOP wasn’t enough to keep the lid on this Democratic civil war.

How bad is it likely to get?

Rep. Mark Pocan, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, sent a scathing tweet to two members of the “Problem Solvers Caucus” — that group that passes for “moderates” in the Democratic party.

“Pour it on!” said some of Pocan’s supporters:

“Off with their heads!”…or not.

All of this handwringing and name calling went for naught. Pelosi offered to amend the Senate bill by adding some changes desired by the radicals. But Senate Republicans stood firm and, in the end, the bill passed without any of Pelosi’s desired changes. It sailed through the Senate 84-8.

Vice President Pence tried to throw something of a lifeline to Pelosi, but it fell a little short:

Roll Call:

In last-minute negotiations Thursday with Vice President Mike Pence, Pelosi did receive promises that the administration would take action itself on two of the provisions Democrats had wanted to put in the bill.

Pence agreed that members of Congress would be notified within 24 hours after the death of a child in custody and that children would spend no more than 90 days in migrant influx facilities, according to a source familiar with his negotiations with the speaker.

That concession did little to appease dozens of progressive and Hispanic members. Ultimately, 95 Democrats voted against the bill.

House Democrats in the progressive caucus blamed Senate Democrats for being wishy-washy.

Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Pramila Jayapal, who voted against the bill, said she believes the moderates undercut Pelosi’s effort to negotiate. But the Washington Democrat seemed to put more blame at the Senate Democrats’ feet, saying they should’ve coordinated better with the House to ensure the party could exert maximum pressure in negotiations.

The divisions Democrats’ displayed in this process “is not good for our unity” as they head toward talks with Republicans over the fiscal 2020 appropriations bills and the National Defense Authorization Act, Jayapal said.

Senate Democrats also joined Republicans on Thursday in overwhelmingly passing, 86-8, a version of the NDAA that differs from the one House Democrats plan to vote on when they return from the July 4 recess.

Jayapal cited that vote as a problem as well, saying Senate Democrats needed to “stop voting with [Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and allow us to have some leverage so that we can actually use our majority in the House.”

McConnell is not the brightest bulb in the room, but he has proved himself a whiz at using Senate rules to maximize GOP advantages. He used a combination of procedural gambits and strong-arm tactics to bend the Democrats to Trump’s will.

Should we feel sorry for Pelosi? Perhaps in the same way we might feel sorry for a mouse about to be run over by a steamroller.


Facing an uprising from both the right and left wings of the caucus, Pelosi struggled to contain members’ outrage on Thursday over being forced to concede to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who refused to entertain Democratic demands that he amend the Senate bill.

The end result also left House Democrats fuming at Schumer and Senate Democrats, who voted overwhelmingly for the Senate’s border aid package, weakening the House majority’s negotiating position, they said.

“It obviously significantly undermined our leverage and our ability to keep these important protections in the bill,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), a member of House leadership who voted against the bill Thursday.

Pelosi expressed her own unhappiness with Schumer at a Democratic leadership meeting Thursday, complaining that he couldn’t corral his members to support the House bill, according to a source in the room.

This is very bad news for the 24 (or is it 25? 26?) Democrats running for president. In fact, factional splits over support for one candidate or another will only exacerbate party differences. Blood will be spilled during the primaries.

And if you thought the Democrats’ 1968 convention was chaotic, just wait for the 2020 version.