Bill to Set Standards for Humane Treatment of Migrants Passes U.S. House With Support From Alabama’s Democrat, Opposition From Republicans; Votes on Other Bills Last Week

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House last week passed a bill to set minimal standards for the government’s treatment of migrants in its custody.

Representatives voted 233 for to 195 against the bill, which now is on its way to the Senate. Alabama’s Republicans voted against the bill and Democratic Rep. Terry Sewell voted for it.

The bill would require U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to conduct medical screenings of migrants within 12 hours of their detention, or three hours for children, the disabled and pregnant women, and provide health care as warranted.

In addition, CBP would have to provide appropriate hygienic care, including access to toilets, regular showers and drinking water and adequate clothing, bedding and incarceration space.

The bill also would require CBP to enlist child welfare and health care professionals for dealing with unaccompanied children and to provide interpreters, chaperones and mental health care as warranted. The bill directs the Department of Homeland Security inspector general to conduct unannounced inspections at ports of entry, border patrol posts and detention facilities and report its findings to Congress

Alabama’s Democratic U.S. Rep. Terry Sewell voted for the bill while all of the Republicans voted against it.

Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said: “We can no longer allow individuals to suffer, be abused or die under CBP. Our values demand that we take this action. It is past time for us to protect adults and children fleeing violence, seeking a safe haven in America.”

Gregory Steube, R-Fla., said the bill “does not address the root causes of the conditions at CBP facilities,” which are that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Health and Human Services “do not have enough space available to take custody of these individuals.”


Voting yes: Sewell, D-7

Voting no: Bradley Byrne, R-1, Martha Roby, R-2, Mike Rogers, R-3, Robert Aderholt, R-4, Mo Brooks, R-5, Gary Palmer, R-6

Here’s how area members of Congress voted on other major issues during the legislative week ending July 19.


Boycotts, Divestiture, Sanctions Against Israel:

The House on July 23 voted, 398 for and 17 against, to condemn the anti-Israel “BDS” movement, which is a global campaign that encourages businesses, governments and other entities to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel and firms owned by Israelis. The non-binding measure (H Res 246) also reaffirms U.S. support of a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, the measure stops short of binding provisions approved by the Senate in February that give a federal green light to anti-BDS laws enacted by state and local governments in the United States. Those laws deny contracts and other benefits to companies or individuals supporting the BDS movement.

Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., said the BDS movement “is supported by people who want to see the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state, and that is not something that we can stand idly by and watch happen.”

Elliot Engel, D-N.Y., said: “Do you want to criticize a government? That is your right. Do you want to stop buying products from a certain country? That is also your right. But participating in an international commercial effort that undermines Israel’s legitimacy and scuttles the chances of a two-state solution isn’t the same as an individual exercising First Amendment rights.”

No member spoke against the resolution.

A yes vote was to adopt the resolution condemns the BDS movement


Voting yes: Byrne, Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer, Sewell

Voting no: None

Not voting: Martha Roby, R-2 

Shoring Up Multiemployer Pensions:

Voting 264 for and 169 against, the House on July 24 passed a bill (HR 397) that would set up a new lending unit in the Treasury Department to aid up to 160 financially troubled multiemployer pension plans covering 1 million-plus union workers.

The new Pension Rehabilitation Administration would make 30-year loans at low interest rates to help those plans keep their promises to retirees. In multiemployer plans, companies fund pension plans covering multiple union locals. The employers pool risk and achieve economies of scale for holding down administrative and medical costs. But the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., the federal agency that insures private-sector retirement benefits, has warned that it lacks resources to adequately cover benefits at risk in failing multi-employer plans. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the program would cost taxpayers $48.5 billion over its first 10 years.

Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., said: “Today, we are telling millions of Americans who worked a lifetime for their pensions that are now in jeopardy, through no fault of their own, that we are standing with you. We are listening. We are taking action.”

Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., said the bill “creates a new federal … bureaucracy. It allows for billions of dollars of loans to be just forgiven. It provides loan terms that actually encourage not paying down the principal of these loans.”

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.


Voting yes: Sewell

Voting no: Byrne, Roby, Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer

Not voting: None

 Second Vote On `BDS’ Movement:

Voting 200 for and 232 against, the House on July 24 defeated a motion by Republicans stating that no pension plans receiving loans under HR 397 (above) could participate in the BDS movement against Israel (above). Backers of the motion offered no evidence of any union participation in the movement, and critics said they were using Israel as a wedge issue.

Brian Mast, R-Fla., said: “If you are one of the 398 members who voted last night to condemn the BDS movement, then you should support this (motion), stand with our ally Israel.”

Bradley Schneider, D-Ill., called the motion “a cynical, partisan gimmick, continuing a dangerous effort to make Israel a wedge issue. It must stop.”

A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.


Voting yes: Byrne, Roby, Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer 

Voting no: Sewell

 Granting Temporary Legal Status to Venezuelan Migrants:

Voting 272 for and 158 against, the House on July 25 passed a bill (HR 549) conferring Temporary Protected Status on as many as 200,000 Venezuelan citizens who have taken refuge in the United States from domestic turmoil in their country. The Department of Homeland Security occasionally grants TPS to migrants from countries beset by war or natural disasters. After paying a $360 fee, recipients acquire legal U.S. residency for 18 months and can apply for work permits and Social Security numbers.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.


Voting yes: Sewell

Voting no: Byrne, Roby, Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer

Approving Two-Year Budget Deal:

Voting 284 for and 149 against, the House on July 25 approved a two-year budget deal (HR 3877) that would raise the national debt ceiling to accommodate additional deficit spending through July 31, 2021. The bill would allow military spending to increase by $46.5 billion and discretionary non-military spending by $56.5 billion over fiscal 2019 levels. In addition, the bill prohibits tax increases but makes slight entitlement cuts over two years to partially offset rising red ink.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.


Voting yes: Roby, Rogers, Aderholt, Sewell 

Voting no: Byrne, Brooks, Palmer


9/11 Victims’ Compensation:

By a vote of 97 for and two against, the Senate July 23 gave final congressional approval to a bill (HR 1327) that would reauthorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund through fiscal 2090.

Administered by a special master, the fund pays economic and non-economic damages to 9/11 first responders and their survivors as well as to those afflicted by health problems as a result of taking in 9/11 cleanup efforts, and to their survivors. In addition, the bill would allow claims to be filed until October 2089, remove a cap on non-economic damages in certain circumstances and index for inflation the program’s annual limits on compensation for economic losses. Although the bill is projected to cost $10.2 billion in its first 10 years and countless billions after that as cancers and other latent diseases emerge, it does not include a “pay for” mechanism or long-term funding means (next issue).

Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said: “Our 9/11 heroes deserve this program as it is written in the bill, without these amendments, which will only force them to have to come back here again and again.”

Mike Lee, R-Utah, said the bill “has a peculiar feature” in that it “authorizes the program for 72 years and does not specify a dollar amount. In other words, without any finite authorization, it offers no way to ensure that the money actually gets to its intended beneficiaries and is not lost in government bureaucracy or misuse.”

A yes vote was to send the bill to President Trump.


Voting yes: Richard Shelby, R, Doug Jones, D 

Voting no: None

Budget Cuts to Finance 9/11 Compensation: Voting 22 for and 77 against, the Senate on July 23 failed to reach 60 votes needed to advance a measure that sought to cut mandatory spending (except for Medicare, Social Security and veterans) by less than 1 percent over 10 years to help pay the cost of HR 1327 (above). The defeat of this amendment means that all Treasury payments into the 9/11 compensation fund will be deficit spending.

Rand Paul, R-Ky., said: “The Republicans and Democrats agree on one thing: Spending money is the most important thing they can do. The deficit doesn’t matter.”

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said: “Some senators voted proudly for tax cuts, unpaid for, to the wealthiest of Americans, but demanded offsets for these folks who had served us.”

A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.


Voting yes: None

Voting no: Shelby, Jones

Confirming Mark Esper as Secretary of Defense:

Voting 90 for and eight against, the Senate on July 23 confirmed Mark T. Esper as the 27th secretary of defense since the office was established in 1947. He becomes the first confirmed defense secretary since James Mattis resigned in December 2018. Esper, 55, joined the administration in 2017 as secretary of the Army, and before that he was a lobbyist for the U.S. defense contractor Raytheon. He was an infantry officer with the 101st Airborne Division during the Gulf War in 1990-91 and served as chief of staff to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank, from 1996-98. He was a deputy assistant secretary of defense in the George W. Bush administration.


Voting yes: Shelby, Jones

Voting no: None

Confirming Gen. Mark Milley as Joint Chiefs Chairman:

Voting 89 for and one against, the Senate on July 25 confirmed Army Gen. Mark Milley to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September, replacing Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford as the nation’s top leader in uniform. Milley has been an infantry officer and commander of Special Forces units in a career that has included service in the Iraq War and a multinational mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina to implement the Dayton Accords peace agreement. The negative vote was cast by Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.

A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.


Voting yes: Shelby, Jones 

Voting no: None


The Senate in the week of July 29 will vote on a bill setting military and domestic spending levels through September 2021 and raising the national debt limit through July 2021. (See above) The House is in recess until the week of Sept. 9.