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DC Download: Amodei leads drafting of border funding law in 2024 policy test

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

They are both cardinals.

As readers will recall, Amodei received a promotion on the Congressional Budget Committee that year, rising from chairman of the Legislature's subcommittee to chairman of the Homeland Security Committee—a thankless position if ever there was one.

One of the most controversial bills – the Homeland Security funding bill – held up the entire chamber and disagreements over it nearly led to a government shutdown in the spring – it is now Amodei's job to draft it and get it through the House.

This week he held a meeting of the bill, a first step toward passage.

News of the week: Fund allocations

Amodei led the drafting of the budget proposal to fund the Department of Homeland Security during a meeting on Tuesday, securing approval of a budget that was significantly larger than the legislative funding proposal he passed last year.

As cardinal of the legislative branch, Amodei allocated $5.3 billion to the work of the House in his first bill. This time, the Homeland Security budget is $94.8 billion to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – which includes agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – as well as disaster relief and recovery.

The bill also includes several conservative policy addendums, such as preventing implementation of the department's equality plan, eliminating programs that allowed the department to purchase electric vehicles, and banning abortion or gender reassignment care for ICE detainees. Policy addendums are Congress's version of “conditions” — a way to dictate how the money they appropriate may or may not be used, or to set unrelated policy. Any member can request an addendum — but the chair of the Appropriations Committee typically dictates how much he or she is willing to tolerate.

In addition, the bill allocates $600 million to build the border wall and requires that those funds be spent within 120 days of passage – a point of contention between the Biden administration and Texas, which is suing to force the administration to build the wall using Trump-era funds.

Some agencies – such as the Transportation Security Administration, the Coast Guard and ICE – receive more money than the Biden administration requested. Others, such as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), have less funding than Biden requested and include more provisions that put Biden and Democrats at odds, such as allowing USCIS officers to make final asylum decisions.

Democrats sharply criticized the bill for underfunding counterterrorism efforts and cutting funding for several programs designed to provide a more humane experience for asylum seekers, such as the Shelter and Services Programs, which provide grants to nonprofits doing humanitarian work at the border.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, accused Amodei and committee chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) of abusing the spending process to send messages about border policy.

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

The Nevada Angle

Amodei is tasked with getting a bill passed that is causing divisions not only between Democrats and Republicans, but also between the various GOP factions in the House. He must secure enough support among Republicans to ensure the bill passes the House – something that proved impossible with last fiscal year's Homeland Bill – while also knowing that the bill will be reworked by Democrats in the Senate.

In an interview, he noted that the bill contains 20 fewer policy attachments this year than last year and that while he expects some “blows” throughout the committee, he is optimistic.

And he is also aware that there will be variations in the final product.

“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 that the Senate will put something back in.”

The impact

Amodei's ability to toe the party line will soon be tested – Republican leadership wants to bring the bill to a vote before the August recess. It will then go to the full House Appropriations Committee, where it will receive a review and be tabled. The Rules Committee will then decide what changes the House can consider to the bill, and the chamber will vote on the changes and ultimately on the bill.

House Republicans' ability to pass the most conservative legislation through their chamber was dampened last year when members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus opposed the Homeland Act and other bills, forcing Republicans to find consensus with Democrats on spending issues.

But even if the right wing accepts Amodei's bill, he acknowledges there is a larger factor affecting budget planning – the 2024 election. With federal funding set to expire on Sept. 30, Congress is expected to pass a stopgap measure until after the election. Then, knowing who will be president and which party controls each chamber can determine how much money to spend and whether to push through partisan addendums. That's especially true for a bill to fund border programs, a sensitive issue in Nevada and elsewhere.

“Assuming the Homeland Act is passed as one of the bills in the House as planned, the actual discussion on it will probably not take place until after the election,” Amodei said.

Around the Capitol

🏞️Clark on the table — Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada) on Wednesday resubmitted the Clark County land bill with slight changes from the previous version. In particular, 25,000 acres are now available for sale instead of the previous version of 41,000 acres.

Both the Clark bill and Senator Jacky Rosen's (D-NV) Washoe bill will be heard in the House next week.

For more information on why the bill failed in 2022, see our story at the time.

🩺Contraception in the crosshairs — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is preparing to launch a campaign this month in advance of the second anniversary of the Roe v. Wade With the ruling overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, vulnerable Democrats like Rosen will have plenty of voting power to spread messages in the coming weeks.

On Wednesday, all but two Republicans opposed a bill to codify the right to contraception, a right enshrined in a Supreme Court case by the right to privacy that until recently also protected abortion.

Both senators took the floor to discuss the importance of the bill – and you can bet Rosen will continue to talk about it in the months to come.

🖊️With Biden on the side of the asylum EO President Joe Biden's executive order freezing new asylum applications until the number of border crossings drops to 1,500 a day – excluding unaccompanied minors – was met with mixed reactions, with progressive voters expressing frustration and Republicans warning against pandering to the election year.

But Nevada's Democratic lawmakers supported him – especially Reps. Susie Lee (D-NV) and Steven Horsford (D-NV), who had urged Biden to go it alone in the face of a lack of action from Congress.

The Congressional Black Caucus' immigration task force released a critical statement, but it was signed by the task force's co-chair, not Horsford, the caucus's chair.

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

Democrats in Nevada like Cortez Masto, who largely supports Biden on immigration issues, said that while congressional intervention is needed – and sharply criticized Republicans for voting against the bipartisan border bill earlier this year – Biden's actions “will help secure our border.”

What I read

Politico: Senate Republican campaign manager believes Trump will support party's choice in Nevada primaries

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

The Nevada Independent: Questions for the Editor: Jon Ralston discusses early voting and Indy's ballot counting process

The primary comes.

Axios: Democrats reject Biden's border rally in close race

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

Remarkable and quotable

“We know that the overturning of Roe was just the beginning. If extreme anti-abortion activists and opponents have their way, access to contraception is next.”

— Rosen spoke in the Senate on Wednesday before the vote on codifying the right to contraception

Vote of the week

p.4391 — At the end of the debate on the motion to continue the debate: A bill to protect individuals' access to and use of contraception and to protect the ability of health care providers to provide contraception, birth control, and birth control information.

This is the attempt, already mentioned, to codify the individual's right to contraception and the doctor's right to prescribe and dispense it.

CORTEZ MASTO: Yes

ROSES: Yes