The Latest: Chairman of black caucus defends Waters’ remark
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on Congress and immigration (all times local):
The chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus is defending Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters for telling an audience to “push back” on members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet in public settings.
Waters’ remarks came the same week that White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave a restaurant and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen left a different restaurant after protesters began shouting at her.
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday that Waters should apologize.
But Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond says it’s clear Waters didn’t incite violence and instead was encouraging Americans to exercise their constitutional rights to speak out against separating immigrant children from their parents.
Richmond says Trump often says something that “makes this country more dangerous” for minorities.
He says, “Where is the national conversation on civility in these moments?”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is sounding a rare note of optimism that senators could pass legislation dealing with family separations at the border by the end of the week.
The Republican leader told reporters Tuesday he hopes talks between Texas Republican Ted Cruz and California Democrat Dianne Feinstein can quickly produce a compromise plan. He called it an “emergency issue.”
McConnell acknowledged the two negotiators are “an unusual couple.” But he was hopeful their political differences could yield a swift vote before lawmakers leave town for the Fourth of July recess.
Even though President Donald Trump reversed the policy separating children from parents who cross the border illegally, lawmakers doubt it will stand in court and want a legislative solution.
Democratic members of Congress are asking the Trump administration to provide a detailed breakdown of expenses incurred in separating immigrant children from their parents.
The administration’s zero-tolerance policy resulted in thousands of unlawful immigrants being taken into federal custody. Children that accompanied them were sent to facilities operated by the Department of Health and Human Services.
More than 100 Democrats signed onto a letter from Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois seeking the amount of money spent transporting the children to detention centers and the amount agencies are paying in rent and other expenses. They also are asking for an estimated cost of reuniting families.
They call the separations “immoral” and a “harmful misuse of taxpayer funds.” They say taxpayers deserve a complete accounting of how much of their money was spent. They’re seeking a response by July 6.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says his department can’t reunite separated kids with their migrant parents as long as the parents are in detention awaiting resolution of their immigration cases.
Azar told the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday that current federal law only allows a 20-day period for parents in immigration detention to keep their children with them. After that, children must be placed in HHS care.
Azar asked senators to change that law.
Questioned by Democratic senators, Azar refused to say how long some 2,000 separated children would remain in HHS shelters. He said HHS conducts extensive vetting of parents to make sure they’re not traffickers masquerading as parents.
He didn’t address the issue of parents who are released from immigration custody while their cases are heard.
House Speaker Paul Ryan says the House will vote Wednesday on a broad Republican immigration bill. But he’s not predicting it passes.
The Wisconsin Republican told reporters Tuesday the measure contains “the seeds of consensus” among Republicans on immigration. He says those issues will be dealt with “hopefully now, but if not, later.” The bill’s defeat seems likely.
Ryan is also declining to discuss a narrower bill Republicans are considering that would focus on curbing the Trump administration’s separation of migrant families when they enter the U.S. illegally.
He says discussing that bill would “undercut” leaders’ efforts to win votes for the wider-ranging measure. It would give young immigrants a chance at citizenship, fund President Donald Trump’s border wall and require the government to keep migrant families together.
Republican leaders are urging a Democratic lawmaker to apologize for saying that people should “push back” on Trump administration officials when they see them in public.
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said the remarks from Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of California are dangerous.
Ryan says, “There’s no place for this. She obviously should apologize.”
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who was shot last year at a congressional baseball practice, says lawmakers need to discuss disagreements in a civil way and be careful “not to incite others to violence.”
Waters, a vocal critic of President Donald Trump, told rally-goers in her Los Angeles district over the weekend to confront Trump administration members when they’re in public and “tell them they’re not welcome.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says his department still has custody of 2,047 migrant children separated from their parents because of the Trump administration’s rescinded “zero tolerance” policy at the southwest border.
That’s only six fewer children than the 2,053 HHS had said were in its custody as of last Wednesday.
Democratic senators questioning Azar during a Finance Committee hearing said that’s nowhere near enough progress.
Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden said “HHS, Homeland Security, and the Justice Department seem to be doing a lot more to add to the bedlam and deflect blame than they’re doing to tell parents where their kids are.”
Azar responded that “every parent has access to know where their child is.”
House Republicans focusing on a slimmed-down bill to stem the crisis of separating immigrant families at the border are already running into uncertainty over its fate.
President Donald Trump has rejected one major proposal in the modest measure: adding more immigration judges. While supporters say more judges could help expedite the logjam of claims that can prolong detentions, the president insists it would only lead to graft.
Lawmakers are wavering on what to do next, calling into question whether they will be able to swiftly act on any bills to address the border crisis.
Reports of immigrant children being separated from their parents at the border have prompted an outpouring of public concern.
House Republicans plan to meet Tuesday to consider options before Congress begins its Fourth of July recess.