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D.C. Download: Amodei leads markup of border funding bill in test of 2024 politics

Amodei said the $94.8 billion will likely be changed in the Senate and the final result will depend on the 2024 election.
Gabby Birenbaum
Gabby Birenbaum

What do Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) and the best song on Kacey Musgraves’ 2024 album “Deeper Well” have in common?

They’re both Cardinal

Amodei, as readers will recall, got a promotion on the congressional Appropriations Committee this year, moving up from chairing the legislative branch subcommittee to homeland security — a thankless role if there ever was one.

One of the most contentious bills — the Homeland Security funding bill held up the entire chamber, with disagreements over it nearly triggering a government shutdown in the spring — is now Amodei’s job to craft and shepherd through the House.

This week, he held a markup of the bill, an early step toward passage.

The News of the Week: Appropriations

Amodei led the markup of the Homeland Security funding bill during a Tuesday meeting, managing the approval of a budget significantly heftier than the legislative branch funding bill he led last year.

As the legislative branch cardinal, Amodei’s initial version of the bill in markup appropriated $5.3 billion for the functioning of the House. This go-around in Homeland Security, the topline budget is $94.8 billion to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — which includes line items such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) — as well as disaster relief and recovery.

The bill includes several conservative policy riders as well, such as preventing DHS from implementing its equity plan, zeroing out programs that enabled the department to purchase electric vehicles and prohibiting abortion or gender-affirming care for ICE detainees. Policy riders are the Congress version of “strings attached” — a way of dictating how the money they are appropriating can or cannot be used or setting an unrelated policy. Any member can request a rider — but the chairman of Appropriations typically dictates how much he or she is willing to tolerate. 

Additionally, it includes $600 million for border wall construction and insists those funds be used within 120 days of passage — a point of contention between the Biden administration and Texas, which has used lawsuits to try to compel the administration to build out the wall using Trump-era appropriations.

Some agencies — such as the Transportation Security Administration, Coast Guard and ICE — are funded above the levels requested by the Biden administration. Others, such as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), are lower than what Biden asked for, and include more policy riders that run afoul of Biden and Democrats, namely allowing USCIS officers to make final asylum determinations.

Democrats panned the bill for underfunding counterterrorism work and eliminating funding for various programs that attempt to make asylum seeking a more humane experience, such as the Shelter and Services Programs, which provides grants to nonprofits doing humanitarian work at the border.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, accused Amodei and committee chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) of using the spending process for border messaging.

“House Republicans do not want to secure our border,” DeLauro said during the markup. “They want to create chaos to score political points.”

The Nevada Angle

Tasked with shepherding a bill that typically becomes a sticking point not just between Democrats and Republicans but amongst the various GOP factions in the House, Amodei must secure enough support among Republicans to ensure the bill passes on the floor — which proved impossible for last fiscal year’s Homeland bill — while knowing that it will be reworked by a Democratic Senate.

In an interview, he noted that there are 20 fewer policy riders in this year’s bill compared to last year, and that while he expects some “dust-up” in the full committee, he’s optimistic.

And he’s also realistic about the final product diverging.

“There are two areas that have traditionally been in the bill,” Amodei said, referring to the Shelter and Services Program. “We zeroed them both out, knowing full well that the Senate will put something back in.”

The Impact

Amodei’s skill at toeing the intraparty line will be tested soon — Republican leadership wants to put the bill up for a vote before the August recess. Next, it will advance to the full Appropriations Committee, where it will receive a markup and be reported out. From there, the Rules Committee will decide what amendments the House can consider to the bill, and the chamber will vote on amendments and eventually the bill. 

House Republicans’ ability to get the most conservative product possible through their chamber was muted last year by members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus voting down Homeland and other bills, forcing Republicans to find consensus with Democrats on spending.

But even if the right wing accepts Amodei’s bill, he acknowledges that there is a greater factor looming over appropriations — the 2024 election. With government funding set to run out Sept. 30, Congress is expected to pass a stopgap until after the election, when the knowledge of who will be president and which party controls each chamber can factor into how much they should spend and whether they should push for partisan policy riders. That’s particularly true for a bill that funds border programs, a hot button issue in Nevada and beyond.

“Assuming Homeland goes through the House as one of the bills, as planned, the real discussion of it's probably not going to take place until after the election,” Amodei said.

Around the Capitol

🏞️Clark on the table — Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) reintroduced the Clark County lands bill Wednesday with slight tweaks from its previous version — notably, 25,000 acres are available for disposal rather than the previous version’s 41,000 acres.

Both the Clark bill and Sen. Jacky Rosen’s (D-NV) Washoe bill will receive a legislative hearing next week. 

For more on why the bill died in 2022, check out our story from the time.

🩺Contraception in the crosshairs — With Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) teeing up a number of reproductive rights-related bills this month leading up to the second anniversary of Roe v. Wade being overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, vulnerable Democrats such as Rosen will have plenty of votes to message on in the coming weeks.

On Wednesday, all but two Republicans voted down a bill to codify the right to contraception, which was established in a Supreme Court case through the right to privacy that had, until recently, protected abortion as well.

Both senators took to the floor to discuss the importance of the bill — and you can bet Rosen will be discussing it in the months to come.

🖊️Riding with Biden on asylum EO President Joe Biden’s executive order freezing new asylum requests until border crossings drop to 1,500 per day — with the exception of unaccompanied minors — was met with a mixed reaction, including frustration from progressives and allegations of election year pandering from Republicans.

But Nevada’s Democratic lawmakers were supportive — especially Reps. Susie Lee (D-NV) and Steven Horsford (D-NV), who had been calling on Biden to go it alone in the absence of congressional action. 

The Congressional Black Caucus’ Immigration Task Force released a critical statement, but it was signed by the task force’s co-chair, rather than Horsford — the caucus chair. 

Make the Road Nevada, however, an immigrant rights group, called the order “devastating.”

Nevada Democrats such as Cortez Masto, who has been broadly supportive of Biden on immigration, said that while congressional action is needed — and bashed Republicans for voting down the bipartisan border bill earlier this year — Biden’s actions “will help secure our border.”

What I’m Reading

Politico: Senate GOP campaign chief believes Trump will back party’s pick in Nevada primary

Can Steve Daines get his white whale when Trump speaks in Vegas this weekend?

The Nevada Independent: Ask the Editor: Jon Ralston talks early voting turnout, Indy’s race-calling process

The primary cometh.

Axios: Dems in tight races spurn Biden border event

“A scheduling conflict kept me from appearing with the unpopular president of my party” is the political version of “The dog ate my homework.”

Notable and Quotable

“We know overturning Roe was just the beginning. If extreme anti-choice politicians and activists … have their way, access to birth control is next.”

— Rosen speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday before the vote to codify the right to contraception

Vote of the Week

S.4391 — On cloture on the motion to proceed: A bill to protect an individual's ability to access contraceptives and to engage in contraception and to protect a health care provider's ability to provide contraceptives, contraception and information related to contraception.

This is the aforementioned effort to codify an individual’s right to contraception and doctors’ rights to prescribe and dispense it.




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