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Senate approves emergency border aid money as Trump faces anger over US treatment of migrants

Key Points
  • The Senate approves a $4.6 billion emergency border aid plan. 
  • It now has to reconcile the measure with a separate, $4.5 billion aid bill passed by Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats. 
  • The votes come as the Trump administration faces backlash for the treatment of migrant children at a U.S. detention facility in Texas. 
A man feds his daughter, both originally from Honduras, as they relax at the El Calvario Methodist Church which is housing migrants who are seeking asylum, after they were released by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on June 3, 2019 in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images

The Senate passed an emergency border aid plan Wednesday, setting up a rush to reconcile it with a separate House bill amid anger over the Trump administration's treatment of migrant children.

The GOP-controlled chamber approved a measure to send $4.6 billion to support U.S. efforts to care for migrants by an 84-8 margin. On Tuesday night, the Democratic-held House passed its own plan to appropriate $4.5 billion — including standards for caring for children at U.S. migrant detention facilities.

Now, the two chambers will try to reconcile their plans. Earlier Wednesday, the Senate voted down the House-passed version of the bill by a 55-37 margin. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also said she would not take up the Senate-approved plan, telling reporters "there are some improvements that we think can be reconciled," according to NBC News.

Pelosi spoke to Trump on Wednesday about how Democrats and Republicans could craft a joint proposal. The California Democrat suggested four unspecified changes to the Senate measure, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday.

"We could quickly have a conference, talk about those four changes, try to get them in the bill, finish this quickly and I hope that's what will happen," the New York Democrat said.

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Lawmakers are rushing to pass the funding before they leave Thursday for a July 4 recess as furor grows about the administration's treatment of children in its detention centers. An Associated Press report last week depicted poor nutrition and sanitation at a Texas facility housing hundreds of migrant children. The U.S. moved most of the children out of the center, then returned about 100 kids to it, according to the AP.

A graphic photo of a daughter and father who drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande and gain asylum in the U.S. further inflamed criticism of the Trump administration's immigration policy. Trump claimed Wednesday that Democrats bear the blame for the drownings because they "refuse to change" asylum laws.

The Trump administration will try to address criticism of its immigration policy amid turnover in its ranks. On Tuesday, acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner John Sanders resigned. He took the post only about two months ago.

Meanwhile, top 2020 Democratic presidential candidates descended upon a migrant detention center in Florida ahead of their first primary election debate in Miami. The contenders have accused Trump — who ran for president promising to crack down on illegal immigration and has threatened mass deportations in the coming weeks — of cruelty in dealing with migrants seeking asylum from poverty and violence in Central America. On Sunday, he said he would postpone the crackdown for two weeks while he tries to strike an immigration plan with Democrats.

Immigration brings its own potential political problems for the senators running for president. Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., all missed the votes while attending the debates.

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., called it "shameful" that Warren visited the Homestead, Fla. detention facility Wednesday while missing votes on the emergency aid money. Warren's campaign did not immediately respond to Scott's criticism.

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