Legislation to pay for handling a flood of Central American migrant children hung by a thread in the U.S. Congress on Wednesday amid deep divisions over President Barack Obama's emergency funding request, even as the Senate agreed to bring up a Democratic measure.
The Democrat-controlled Senate voted 63-33 to consider the bill. The legislation would provide $2.7 billion in emergency funds to secure borders further and to feed and house temporarily some of the 57,000 unaccompanied minors who have arrived in the U.S. Southwest illegally since October.
Obama had requested $3.7 billion.
Republicans complain that the Senate legislation will do nothing to fix the immigration problem in the long term. They want to change a 2008 anti-human trafficking law so that illegal immigrants from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala can be deported quickly, discouraging more children from making the dangerous journey to the United States.
Democrats have argued that such a change must be more carefully weighed, with hearings and possibly separate legislation.
As a result, the emergency funding bill is likely to get bogged down in the Senate and fail to be approved before a five-week summer recess starts this week.
The Republican-dominated House of Representatives on Thursday is expected to try to pass a much more scaled-down version of Obama's funding request with a $659 million bill. It contains the controversial change in the 2008 anti-trafficking law.
If the Republican bill passes the House, the Senate is not expected to take it up.
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