(Updates throughout with additional reporting.)
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The Department of Homeland Security will ask Congress for supplemental funding to address border needs if the agency’s efforts to shuffle existing accounts fall short.
Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told House appropriators Wednesday that the department is committed to managing its current appropriations carefully but is prepared to ask for more.
“We have not reached that point,” Mayorkas said of a supplemental request. “We are going to try to avoid that to the best of our abilities.”
Mayorkas is at the center of a political and legal firestorm over the administration’s plans to end pandemic-related restrictions at the border. During a House Homeland Security Committee hearing later Wednesday, Republican members called him a liar, a disappointment, and a failure, and urged him to resign.
Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.), who’s vying for the top GOP seat on the panel next year, promised to try to impeach Mayorkas if Republicans take the House in the midterm elections this fall.
The latest round of criticism stems from the decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to end Title 42, the public health authority allowing quick migrant expulsions, on May 23. DHS officials are prepared for migrant encounters to more than double, at the top end of models, when the expulsion policy ends.
Key lawmakers already voice skepticism about any potential request for a border supplemental. Before funneling more money to the border, “we need to take a very, very serious look: Is this working? Or is it just the same old, same old?” Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, told Bloomberg Government.
Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (Tenn.), the top Republican on the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, showed a wariness of supporting supplemental funding but didn’t rule it out.
“If they need more, if they deserve more, we’ll certainly look at it,” he said. “But we certainly want to make sure that the funds that we’ve already given them have been spent responsibly.”
Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) said he would closely monitor how DHS reprograms funds to ensure it doesn’t undermine parts of the agency, including U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, that process immigration benefits.
Mayorkas also made a now-routine pitch for Congress to pass comprehensive legislation to overhaul the U.S. immigration system, saying the department is doing all it can to manage the border but needs a better system.
“It is not built to manage the current levels and types of migratory flows,” he told the committee. “Only Congress can fix this.”
The secretary is also set to appear Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee, where Rep. Jim Jordan (R-) has already outlined aggressive lines of attack against Mayorkas.
To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org