WARNING: DISTRESSING CONTENT


The US Senate today approved US$4.6 billion ($6.8b) in emergency spending for the US-Mexico border, with lawmakers galvanised by a chilling photo of a father and his young daughter lying dead in the Rio Grande.

But despite the overwhelming 84-to-8 vote and a bipartisan sense of urgency to act, a struggle loomed with the House, which passed a different version of the spending bill yesterday that contains greater restrictions on the Trump Administration and is opposed by the White House.

Senate Republicans oppose the House bill, too, and were urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D, to take up and pass the bipartisan Senate version before Congress leaves town for a 10-day recess as soon as tomorrow.

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But Pelosi ruled that out, telling reporters: "They pass their bill. We respect that. We passed our bill, we hope they would respect that. And there's some improvements that we think can be reconciled."

Pelosi addressed reporters not long after having a phone conversation with US President Donald Trump during which she urged him to support a negotiation on the border bill.

Trump himself sounded notes of optimism as he spoke about the legislation outside the White House prior to departing for Japan.

"What they're working on is aid, humanitarian aid for the children. It seems that the Senate is very close," Trump said. "I think that Nancy wants to get something done, and the Senate and the House will get together. I think they'll be able to do something very good."

Ahead of today's vote, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D, appeared on the Senate floor to display a widely circulated photo of two migrants - Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria - who drowned trying to cross the river into Brownsville, Texas. In the photo the pair lie face down in shallow water, the little girl's arm around her father.

"President Trump, I want you to look at this photo," Schumer said. "These are not drug dealers. Or vagrants or criminals. They are simply people fleeing a horrible situation in their home country for a better life."

Schumer blamed the Trump Administration for conditions at the border, where large numbers of migrants from Central America have overwhelmed US facilities and personnel, resulting in unaccompanied children being held in conditions that visitors have described as inhumane.

The bodies of Salvadoran migrant Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his daughter Valeria.
The bodies of Salvadoran migrant Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his daughter Valeria.

The legislation in the Senate includes US$2.88b for the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the agency responsible for caring for migrant children, which is at risk of running out of money within days.

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But some members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus oppose the Senate bill, arguing it allows the Administration too much leeway to spend the money on purposes they oppose.

The bill passed yesterday by the House includes stricter conditions on facilities that hold migrants, and excludes money for the Defence Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency contained in the Senate bill.

Senate Republicans and the White House describe such provisions as non-starters that would prevent the House Democratic bill from ever becoming law, and they accused Democrats of playing politics with people's lives.

"House Democrats have been consistently uncooperative and uninterested in anything except political posturing," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R. "Now that they've finally passed something last night, it's a go-nowhere proposal filled with poison-pill riders which the president would veto."

It was uncertain how - or if - the House and Senate would resolve their differences before Congress breaks for its Fourth of July recess. But lawmakers of both parties insisted they could not leave Washington without acting.