The US House of Representatives has passed a USD 827 billion package that includes USD 1.6 billion for a controversial border wall with Mexico, which was part of President Donald Trump’s central campaign pledge.
During his presidential campaign last year, Trump had vowed to build the wall to prevent illegal immigration and smuggling of drugs to the US. But he had said he would make Mexico pay for it. All of the funds in the bill would be paid for by US taxpayers.
The bill was passed yesterday by the Republican-controlled House with a 235-192 vote, mostly along party lines. It now heads to the Senate – where Democrats have a significant strength – before it can be signed into law by the US president.
The Democratic leadership has been opposing the proposed border wall. It is likely that the legislation would be resisted by the opposition party in the Senate. Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said the bill “would squander billions of taxpayer dollars on President Trump’s immoral, ineffective and expensive border wall.” Pelosi also reminded the House that Trump had during his campaign “promised a wall that Mexico would pay for.”
“He said it would cost USD 4-6 billion. The fact is it could cost as much as USD 30-40 billion. And he wants a down payment for that wall in this bill. One poison pill,” she said.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley called the move to build the border wall as “immoral and ineffective”.
“A wall along the US-Mexican border will not make the United States safer nor more secure,” he said. “It is a massive waste of taxpayer money and will exacerbate problems with our already broken immigration system.”
Democratic National Committee Chair Tom too raised his concerns on similar lines in a statement. “Like many of the president’s policies, this initiative is rooted in nothing more than prejudice and fear mongering. And as with so many of his campaign pledges, he has broken his promise to Americans that they wouldn’t pay a dime for this wall.”
The Trump administration has defended the wall.
“The border wall is one more tool in the toolbox that might prevent some of the things from happening,” Tom Homan, acting director of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told reporters at a White House news conference.
“That is why what President Trump is asking us to do, that is why what he’s proposing for border security makes sense for the law enforcement community. We need this help,” Homan said.
Lorella Praeli, director of immigration policy and campaigns at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the wall would “further Trump’s discriminatory anti-immigrant agenda and worsen customs and border protection abuses” in the 100-mile border zone.
Meanwhile, The US Senate rejected a scaled-back Obamacare repeal bill on Friday in a shocking vote that marked a major defeat for Republican leaders and their seven-year effort to repeal the healthcare law, the media reported.
The Senate voted 49-51 against the “skinny” bill that would have repealed Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates and defunded Planned Parenthood, The Hill magazine reported.
Republican Arizona Senator John McCain cast the decisive vote to defeat the proposal called the Health Care Freedom Act, joining two other Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, in opposing it.
“I do my job as a senator,” Politico news quoted McCain as saying after he left the Senate chamber.
McCain said he voted against the Obamacare repeal bill “because I thought it was the right vote” and also because it did not offer an “adequate replacement”.
In a speech from the Senate floor, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said “it is time to move on”.
“What we tried to accomplish for the American people was the right thing for the country.”
“I think the American people are going to regret that we couldn’t find another way forward,” McConnell said.
President Donald Trump blasted lawmakers for failing to pass the “skinny” bill.
“Three Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let Obamacare implode, then deal. Watch!” Trump tweeted.
The US President ran on the promise of repealing and replacing his predecessor Barack Obama’s 2010-promulgated health reform called the Affordable Care Act and has been pressuring Republicans for months to put forward and pass a repeal bill.
Ahead of the vote, many Republican senators admitted that the measure was not good policy, but, in a highly unusual situation, said they were voting for it simply to advance the process and set up a negotiation with the House on a new bill, in what is known as a conference committee, the report said.
The Congressional Budget Office found that the bill would result in 16 million more uninsured people and roughly 20 per cent higher premiums, largely from repealing the mandate to have insurance.
Republicans pointed out many of those people would choose not to buy insurance, without the mandate.