By Brian Bennett
House Republicans passed a stopgap bill Thursday to restore federal funding to border security that has been cut during the government shutdown. It is the latest in a series of votes by House Republicans since the shutdown began to return funding to government functions that they favor.
Senate Democrats have mostly ignored the piecemeal funding bills, declining to cherry pick some parts of the government to fund over others during the political stalemate.
Frontline immigration officers and border security agents are still on the job, but thousands of support staff members have been furloughed. The bill, called the Border Safety and Security Act, aims to ensure that border agents are paid their salaries, normal levels of fuel are available for vehicles and patrol aircraft, and support staff who help monitor the border are allowed to work. The bill passed, 249-175.
"Our agents at the Department of Homeland Security _ the Border Patrol, ICE and CBP _ are wondering when they will get their next paycheck and whether the invaluable work they do on behalf of our country will be fully funded," Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said during a speech on the House floor.
"I hope that no one in this chamber truly believes that we should play politics with the security of our borders, our first line of defense," McCaul said.
Democrats renewed their demand for Republicans to vote to fund the government first and then negotiate budget cuts.
"We've had enough of the ransom demands," said Rep. David E. Price, D-N.C., before the bill passed. "Let's get on with the budget negotiations."
Customs and Border Protection told 6,888 of 59,561 employees, 12 percent of the workforce, not to come into work when the government shutdown began 10 days ago.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement furloughed 4,016 of 19,810, about 20 percent of the agency.
Democrats who run the Senate gave no indication that they would take up the border security bill.
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