State of the Union Congress (copy)

In this Jan. 21, 2018, photo, lights shine inside the U.S. Capitol Building as night falls in Washington.  (AP Photo/J. David Ake)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House advanced late Tuesday a $4.5 billion emergency humanitarian aid measure meant to address increasingly dire conditions in facilities where thousands of migrants — many of them children — are being held after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

But the vote came down to a near party-line vote, signaling that the showdown over how to handle crisis conditions at the border may not yet be over, with the GOP-controlled Senate pushing a separate measure and President Donald Trump already signaling opposition to the Democrat-backed bill. Both of Louisiana’s Republican Senators favored the upper chamber’s version of the bill when it came up Wednesday afternoon and passed in an 84-8 vote.  

Trump signaled vague optimism to reporters Wednesday after a brief chat with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the issue.

"We’re moving along very well with the bipartisan bill in the Senate, spoke to a lot of people and we’re doing very well. — We’re very far along," he said ahead of his departure on a diplomacy trip to Japan. "The House is getting it together with the Senate to get something done."

Louisiana's six-member delegation in the House mirrored the partisan divide on the issue, except for Rep. Ralph Abraham, a Republican from north Louisiana who missed all of Tuesday's votes to campaign in Louisiana for governor.

Republican U.S. Reps. Steve Scalise, Garret Graves, Clay Higgins and Mike Johnson all voted against the Democrat-backed proposal.

Scalise, the No. 2 Republican in the House, called the vote a waste of time. The Jefferson Republican, who is a close ally of President Donald Trump and had served as a messenger from the White House, warned the president wouldn't sign Democrats' proposal as presented, largely because it didn't provide funding for increased immigration enforcement efforts.

"Under a veto threat from the White House, this legislation simply wastes our valuable time as the situation at the border deteriorates," he said after the vote. "I hope, with the Democrats’ stunt out of the way, we can finally work with the Senate and get down to the business of passing a border supplemental bill that President Trump can sign."

Rep. Cedric Richmond, the only Democrat in the Louisiana delegation, voted in favor of it.

“It’s clear we have a humanitarian crisis at our border," said Richmond, D-New Orleans. "This funding is a significant first step in showing the rest of the world how great America already is and how to lead with our morals. Congress is responsible for helping address and resolve this crisis by providing the resources to cover essential needs and ensure humane treatment of families fighting for their lives.”

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, said he hopes the House will agree to the Senate changes, which won bipartisan support.

“The Senate just showed that we can pass bipartisan legislation to address the crisis on our southern border,” Cassidy said. “Now it’s time for House Democrats to join us and show they would rather have a solution than a campaign issue.”

Pelosi, D-California, said House Democrats were focused on improved conditions for children crossing the border, following reports of horrific conditions in some facilities and news that many have been going without basic sanitary items like soap or toothbrushes.

"We are ensuring that children have food, clothing, sanitary items, shelter and medical care," she said. "We are providing access to legal assistance. And we are protecting families because families belong together."

Pelosi called the border conditions "cruel" and said the Trump administration is responsible for the "enduring trauma and terror" children at the border are facing.

"Every member of this body has a sacred moral obligation to protect the human rights and the lives of vulnerable families, no matter who they are and from where they came," she said.

Higgins, of Port Barre, said he hopes the House will embrace the bipartisan Senate proposal.

"While the Senate package isn’t perfect, it represents a legitimate compromise and allows (the federal government) to address urgent funding needs," he said. "Long term, we need serious asylum reform and an all-of-the-above security strategy to fully address the border crisis.”

Lawmakers are hoping to hash out a final deal to secure increased aid before they leave Washington for a week-long recess next week for the July 4 holiday. Scalise, who has repeatedly brought up the border crisis in recent weeks, said that the federal government is "literally days away from running out of money."

"I think it's a national scandal," Scalise said before Democrats moved to vote Tuesday.

Much of the action took place behind the scenes as Pelosi and other Democratic leaders attempted to sway more of the liberal wing of the chamber to sign onto the bill. It ended up passing  230-195 with support from three moderate Republicans and opposition from Democrat freshmen Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ihan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

Earlier in the day, appearing on Fox News, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-Madisonville, blamed the high-profile Ocasio-Cortez for holding up the vote, saying her rhetoric had “basically demagogued the whole thing.”

“She’s more famous than wise," he said.

Scalise also accused Pelosi of kowtowing to Ocasio-Cortez and other liberal freshmen he has dubbed the "socialist left base" of the House.

"When is (Pelosi) going to stop playing political games and come to us and say 'How can we work together to solve this problem?'" he said.

How Louisiana's U.S. House members voted on Democrat-backed proposal:

  • Yes: Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans.
  • No: Reps. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson; Mike Johnson, R-Benton; Clay Higgins, R-Port Barre; and Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge.
  • Did not vote: Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Alto.

How Louisiana’s senators voted on the GOP version of the bill:

  • Yes: U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge; John Kennedy, R-Madison.

Email Elizabeth Crisp at ecrisp@theadvocate.com and follow on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.