WASHINGTON (AP) — In a fight with the GOP over immigration, House Democrats on Monday blocked a bill to extend federal aviation programs and provide tax breaks for hurricane victims.
Republicans had hoped to pass a package of legislation addressing the Federal Aviation Administration and the tax breaks, but opposition from Pelosi and other Democrats stopped the bill from being passed on an expedited basis. The vote was 245-171, short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass.
"America's patriotic young Dreamers must have swift action on the bipartisan DREAM Act," Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said before the vote.
Lawmakers are expected to try again as the week progresses. Neither party wants to be blamed for the furlough of air traffic control workers or for hurricane assistance being delayed.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., accused Democrats of putting politics before disaster relief and air traffic safety.
"It's shameful that politics will trump meaningful relief for families suffering from these devastating hurricanes," Ryan said. "House Democrats are willing to shut down air traffic control to make a political point."
The tax breaks put into the bill for victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria would ease requirements for deducting individual property losses and allow people to draw on their retirement funds without penalty. The legislation also seeks to encourage people around the U.S. to donate to hurricane relief efforts by temporarily suspending limits on deductions for charitable contributions.
Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla, said the bill would help people recover more quickly from the storms and rebuild their communities stronger than before. He called it a first step.
"My constituents and those in other communities like my district don't have time to wait," said Curbelo who represents a far South Florida district. "They certainly don't have time to play political games."
Democrats called the tax relief inadequate and made clear that they would seek to work with Republicans to do more.
"We should be sitting down here in the next 48 hours putting together a massive package of relief," said Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass.
Pelosi is using her leverage to keep relief for young immigrants in the spotlight after securing support from President Donald Trump to protect those immigrants while also bolstering border security. Trump rescinded the Obama-era program and gave Congress six months to come up with a solution.
House Democrats also announced an effort to force Republican leaders to bring up the measure on young immigrants referred to as the DREAM Act. They began a petition that requires the signatures of 218 House lawmakers to force a vote on the bill. The tactic is rarely successful, but Democrats said they believe it could work this time.
"It's up to Congress to take action to prevent families from being torn apart and to prevent young Americans in mind and spirit from being sent back to the countries of their birth but not their homes," said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md. "This is their home."
Meanwhile, three GOP senators unveiled their own proposed solution to helping young immigrants brought into the country illegally as children. Their bill would offer those who came into the country below the age of 16 a pathway to remaining permanently. For two consecutive five-year stints, they would have to meet various requirements, namely maintain a job, earn a degree or serve in the military, pay their taxes and follow the law. After that decade-long period, they could apply for a green card.
"This act is about the children. It's completely merit based," said Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. "If you work hard, if you follow the law, and you pay your taxes, you can stay here permanently,"
The bill's co-sponsors said they didn't envision their bill as a stand-alone measure. It would have to be combined with other efforts to secure the border. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, an original supporter of the DREAM Act legislation being pursued by Democrats, said he was joining with Tillis and Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., because their bill had the best shot at passing.
"Frankly, these are young people who have a real ability to contribute to our society," Hatch said. "In many cases, in most cases, they're educated by us. In many cases, they don't even know the former lands from which their parents came. They only know the United States of America."