With HHS Funds Dwindling, Scalise Presses Hoyer to Address Border Crisis
WASHINGTON, D.C.—House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) pressed Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) during today’s colloquy on the Democrats' reluctance to address the humanitarian crisis at our border even as government facilities are overwhelmed and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) runs out of funding. Whip Scalise also expressed hope for progress on USMCA after yesterday's bipartisan meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
See highlights from the colloquy below.
On Democrats' willingness to fulfill Trump's emergency funding request:
"There was a letter sent just days ago and Secretary Azar has been making it very clear how serious of a crisis this is, literally to the point where they're about to run out of money to take care of young children that are coming over illegally, many who have serious health problems. They want to take care of these kids. They are properly taking care of these kids, but they're about to run out of money to take care of these kids. They just sent an Antideficiency Act notice, which means they basically are out of money that has been appropriated by Congress.
"It would be a violation of the law to spend any money after you've run out of money appropriated by Congress. But under this act, they can spend money in violation of that law if it's to preserve life and safety. They are at that critical of a point. And so I make all of these points just to ask the gentleman as we look at the Senate bill that, while it might not be ideal, can be signed by the President - we haven't seen any details of what you're working on right now.
"I'm not sure how closely you've been working with the White House, but have you been working with the White House to come up with a bill that can actually be signed by the President in time to avert this crisis before they run out of money in a matter of days?"
On the need for Democrats to pursue a bipartisan border funding bill:
"I just can't urge enough that as these conversations are happening, as this work is going on over the weekend, that it's work not just among Democrat appropriators and Democrat leadership, but that you're working with Republicans as well. And with the White House as well, because we've been hearing that there may be some what would be considered poison pills that might be added.
"There are things that the agency is doing, for example - HHS is trying to find more places to house these children. They have over 13,000 children in their custody right now, in their care, and they want to take care of them. They need the money to take care of them. They are literally days away from running out of money to take care of them. And so in this -- this the midnight hour, but it's not the midnight hour because they just dropped it. This has been -- this has been known for over a month. They've been asking for this money for over a month. They're days away from running out.
"If this becomes a game where only a partisan bill is brought to the floor with poison pills that everybody knows the White House can't support, when we've seen the Senate take action with a 30 to 1 vote on a bill that the President can support, if a bill comes out of the House that does have those kind of poison pills, limits the ability of the agency -- not on the wall, we're not even talking about all the other problems with the border, things that are causing so many people to come over illegally. We still have to deal with that. Now we're just talking about taking care of these kids.
"The Senate proved that they can pass a bill in a very bipartisan way that can be signed by the President. We need to be working not just among Democrats but among Republicans with the White House on a bill the President can sign, because if we don't pass a bill by the end of next week -- the gentleman from Maryland makes the schedule, you know the schedule, we're not here on July 4th recess -- once we leave next week, if we don't have a bill that the President can sign pass through the House and through the Senate, they go into shutdown mode. They will literally be in shutdown mode after the July 4th recess. The employees of HHS will not get paid. They will have to be finding money to feed these young kids, over 13,000 of them, with monies that are not appropriated by Congress. They will be out of money.
"And so I say that just to urge, I appreciate that the gentleman has a group working on a bill, but I can't urge enough that this bill has to be bipartisan in a way that the President can sign by the time we leave next week. We go to conference because the House passes a partisan bill when the Senate proved that they can come together and pass a very bipartisan bill 30 to 1 out of committee that the President will sign.
"We've got to be working on that same track. Otherwise we leave next week without a bill signed by the President, they go into shutdown. Those 13,000+ kids that are being treated will be being treated by HHS employees, who won't be getting paid, with money to feed them, to take care of their health care needs, from who knows what account. There's no money left. Again, this isn't a new problem. It's been known for over a month.
"We've been urging action. I would just urge that while the work is being done over the weekend, can we get an assurance that it will be done in a way where we're working with the White House, like the Senate did? Republicans and Democrats 30 to 1 vote out of committee -- that kind of approach, as opposed to an approach that might include some poison pills that everybody knows then poison the well where it won't be signed by the President."
On positive USMCA developments:
"On a final point, I just wanted to commend the gentleman. We had a very good meeting yesterday, our two leadership teams, with the Canadian Prime Minister and he -- Mr. Trudeau -- was here to talk with us about a number of things. Of course that USMCA is the most imminent, the most up front issue. Mexico just passed the agreement.
"I know we're having discussions to see if we can find a path forward for the House to move USMCA and get a better deal with our partners both on the south and north -- Canada and Mexico -- you know, they loaned us Lord Stanley's Cup, we're going to loan them the NBA trophy for a little while. But beyond those trade issues, we do, I think have some common ground on some trade issues that had been needed to be resolved for a long time.
"I know we're going to continue to have those discussions -- you with the White House, to hopefully get to a point where we can then get that agreement in place. But I do appreciate that we had a very productive bipartisan meeting with the Canadian Prime Minister, Mr. Trudeau and we appreciate that he was here on behalf of his nation."