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Saturday, December 9, 2023

White House Vows to Veto House Republicans’ DHS Appropriations Bill as Shutdown Looms

House Republicans' funding legislation would eliminate the Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention grant program and ban use of the CBP One app for migrant processing appointments.

With a week to go until a potential government shutdown, the White House said that the appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security pushed by House Republicans runs afoul of an earlier agreement struck with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in May and would be vetoed by President Biden.

The deadline to keep the government funded — or pass a continuing resolution to continue funding and negotiations — is Sept. 30. The House of Representatives left Friday and does not return until Tuesday, when McCarthy is going to try to pass funding bills separately after some conservatives have voiced opposition to passing a GOP-crafted continuing resolution.

H.R. 4367, which makes appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2024, has not yet come up for a vote. But conservatives in the lower chamber tanked movement earlier this week on a Department of Defense spending bill through their opposition to procedural votes. “It’s frustrating in the sense that I don’t understand how anyone votes against bringing the idea up and having the debate,” McCarthy said. “This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down. That doesn’t work.”

And even if House Republicans were able to pass their spending bills that include deep cuts, these would stall again in the Democratic-led Senate. The same goes for a continuing resolution that would likely have a lower topline funding level than the Senate version.

The White House said in a statement Friday that the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) of 2023, forged through previous talks with McCarthy, set spending levels for fiscal years 2024 and 2025 and “the agreement held spending for non-defense programs roughly flat with FY 2023 levels, a compromise that protected vital programs” from deep cuts. 

“House Republicans had an opportunity to engage in a productive, bipartisan appropriations process, but instead, with less than two weeks before the end of the fiscal year, are wasting time with partisan bills that cut domestic spending to levels well below the FRA agreement and endanger critical services for the American people,” the White House said. “These levels would result in deep cuts to climate change and clean energy programs, essential nutrition services, law enforcement, consumer safety, education, and healthcare.”

“If the President were presented with H.R. 4367, he would veto it,” the White House vowed.

The administration said it is “disappointed” that the House Appropriations Committee’s version of the DHS spending bill omits funding for a new Southwest Border Contingency Fund, eliminates the Shelter and Services Program for migrants who are released from DHS custody, and does not fund USCIS application processing and grant programs intended to improve asylum processing and meet the administration’s refugee admissions goal along with clearing the application processing backlog. The Administration appreciates the Committee’s support for pay parity for Transportation Security Officers,” the White House said. “However, the Administration urges the Congress to provide pay parity for all TSA employees in order to avoid a partial roll-back of the full pay parity initiative that was funded in FY 2023 appropriations and that TSA is currently implementing. In addition, the Administration urges the Congress to include funding for expanded collective bargaining and merit system protections.”

The administration also opposes how the House bill would eliminate the Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) grant program. This fiscal year DHS said it awarded grants for implementing prevention capabilities in small and mid-sized communities, advancing equity in awards and engaging underserved communities in prevention, addressing online aspects of targeted violence and terrorism, preventing domestic violent extremism; and enhancing local threat assessment and management capabilities. Awardees announced earlier this month included educational institutions, law enforcement and state homeland security agencies, and nonprofits including Parents for Peace, which is expanding its helpline and efforts to build awareness about violent extremism and behavioral signs of radicalization.

The White House said it “strongly opposes” section 220 of the legislation, which states, “None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be made available to implement, administer, or otherwise carry out the activities and policies described in the memorandum issued by the Secretary of Homeland Security on September 30, 2021, entitled ‘Guidelines for the Enforcement of Civil Immigration Law’ or described in the memorandum issued by Kerry Doyle, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Principal Legal Advisor on April 3, 2022, entitled ‘Guidance to OPLA Attorneys Regarding the Enforcement of Civil Immigration Laws and the Exercise of Prosecutorial Discretion’ or any successor or similar memorandum or policy.” The bill also says that ICE “shall maintain a level of not less than 41,500 detention beds” and requires the agency to “ensure that every alien on the non-detained docket is enrolled into the Alternatives to Detention Program with mandatory GPS monitoring throughout the duration of all applicable immigration proceedings (including any appeals) and until removal, if ordered removed.” These requirements are unrealistic, pose implementation challenges, and would dilute the Department’s focus on protecting America from security threats,” the administration said. The legislation would also defund the rule allowing USCIS asylum officers to hear and decide certain asylum claims.

The House bill states that “none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be made available to transport aliens unlawfully present in, paroled into, or inadmissible to the United States into the interior of the United States for purposes other than enforcement of the immigration laws.” The administration opposes this prohibition, saying that the a ban on interior transportation “risks overcrowding at border processing sites and other DHS facilities, threatening to exacerbate life and safety concerns of those in custody.”

The legislation also would ban DHS from using funds “to implement, administer, or enforce the rule related to ‘Circumvention of Lawful Pathways,'” which the department has used since the end of Title 42 and “presumes those who do not use lawful pathways to enter the United States are ineligible for asylum and allows the United States to remove individuals who do not establish a reasonable fear of persecution or torture in the country of removal” with the exception of a noncitizen who received authorization to come to the U.S. to seek parole, those who scheduled a CBP One  appointment to present themselves at a point of entry, those who establish that they were unable to use the CBP One app, those who sought and were denied asylum in another country, and unaccompanied children.

To that end, the House bill states that “none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be made available to utilize the U.S. Customs and Border Protection CBP One Application, or any successor application, to facilitate the parole of any alien into the United States.”

The use of the CBP One app, which allows travelers and stakeholders to access CBP mobile applications and services, was expanded in January to let migrants approaching the southwest border make an appointment at a point of entry to seek an exemption to the Title 42 public health order. Since the end of Title 42, migrants have been able to submit certain biographic and biometric information to CBP through the app and make an appointment up to 21 days in advance at the ports of entry in Nogales, Brownsville, Eagle Pass, Hidalgo, Laredo, El Paso, Calexico or San Ysidro. From its launch through the end of August, nearly 263,000 individuals have used CBP One to schedule border processing appointments, CBP said this week, with the top nationalities using the app being Haitian, Mexican, and Venezuelan.

The Administration opposes the bill’s rescission and reappropriation of $2.1 billion in border wall funding,” the veto threat continued. “Building a border wall is not a serious policy solution nor is it a responsible use of Federal funds.”

The White House also cited opposition to a section of the bill that forbids the use of DHS funding to transfer, release, or assist in the transfer or release of Guantánamo Bay detainees into the United States. “It is the longstanding position of the Executive Branch that these provisions unduly impair the ability of the Executive Branch to determine when and where to prosecute Guantánamo Bay detainees and where to send them upon release,” the administration said. “In addition, certain provisions of the draft bill raise separation of powers concerns, including by conditioning the Executive’s authority to take certain actions on receiving the approval of the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations. The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to address these and other concerns.”

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio), tweeted Friday, “If we don’t act swiftly to fund DHS for FY24, our men and women who already work tirelessly on the frontlines will have to go without pay.”

“The Homeland Appropriations bill forces the Biden Administration to do what it will not do on its own — act to address the border security crisis that has been raging for the last two and a half years,” Joyce tweeted today.

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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