House Democrats suspend work on retooling border aid legislation

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House Democrats on Thursday suspended work on legislation to retool Senate-passed border aid legislation, a Democratic aide said. The Democrats had been planning to vote later Thursday on adding protections for migrant children to the bill.

The aide did not give a reason for suspending the effort, but earlier several Democrats in the Democratic-majority chamber had joined Republicans in calling for the chamber to simply bring up the Senate-passed $4.6 billion aid bill without amending it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke to Vice President Mike Pence Thursday at midday for nearly an hour, a senior Democratic aide said. He said Pelosi was briefing other House Democratic leaders on the discussion.

U.S. President Donald Trump on May 1 requested aid for programs that shelter, feed, transport and oversee record numbers of Central American families seeking asylum in the United States and straining capacity at migrant shelters in border cities.

Lawmakers were struggling to finish work on the legislation before going home at the end of the week for the July 4 recess. The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved its version of the bill, but left out controls over how the aid should be spent that the House had written into its version earlier in the week.

At the behest of progressive Democrats in her caucus, Pelosi had been seeking to add the controls back in, including setting health standards for facilities holding migrants, and a three-month limit for any child to spend at an intake shelter. The changes also would have reduced Senate-proposed spending for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Republican-run Senate and White House were opposed to the changes. The House debated them for about an hour on Thursday before suddenly pulling the proposal from the floor.

Reporting by Susan Cornwell in Washington; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and James Dalgleish