House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is insisting that immigration reform be excluded from proposed legislation to provide billions of dollars to deal with a flood of minors at the U.S.-Mexico border, stepping back from comments she made earlier this month.
“I very firmly believe it would be a mistake for us to do immigration law in a supplemental bill. You’re not supposed to be legislating on an appropriations bill,” the California Democrat told reporters Friday.
House leaders say they hope to reach a deal to address the border crisis before Congress adjourns for its summer break next week. But an agreement is seriously in doubt, as bickering persists on whether to make changes to a 2008 law designed to protect Central American children from human trafficking.
Republicans say any emergency supplemental spending measure to address the issue must include changes to the law, which they partly blame for the mass migration of unaccompanied minors. But Pelosi and her fellow Democratic leaders say any changes in border policy should be done separately.
“It’s not a good place to insert a clause that has such ramifications on a bill that has nothing to do, really, with the values that are put forth in the  law,” Pelosi said.
“So let’s just keep this out. … You want to have a separate bill on the 2008 [law], discuss it there. But again, don’t hold the children hostage to the cosmetics of how tough you are on the boarder.”
Pelosi’s stance differs from previous comments. At a news event two weeks ago, she said that — while opposed to GOP demands to tweak the 2008 law in the supplemental bill — it was “not a deal-breaker.”
When asked Friday about her updated position, Pelosi responded, "My priority are the children.”
“If that seems inconsistent to you, I reserve the right to be inconsistent when we’re talking about two different bills — maybe three, maybe four,” she said.
Controlling Senate Democrats have proposed a $2.7 billion measure that wouldn’t address the 2008 anti-trafficking law. House Republican leaders, who run their chamber, are considering a $1.5 billion proposal that includes tweaks to border policy.
Both proposals fall short of President Obama's request to Congress to spend $3.7 billion in emergency spending over 15 months to address the border crisis. Obama also wants some alterations to border polices.
Pelosi said she remained “hopeful” a deal between the parties and chambers can be hammered out before Congress' August break.
“I believe in the good faith that many of my Republican colleagues have on these issues,” she said
“I only hope that they don't go with the convoy theory — go as slow as the slowest ship in their convoy — because if they do that, then we won't be able to achieve what we need to achieve in a timely fashion to help the children.”