But a summary of the provisions drafted by Senate Republican staff members placed the average number of beds funded under the deal at a much higher number — 45,274, including 2,500 for families. And that could rise to as many as 58,500 beds, Republican aides asserted in internal communications, because federal cabinet departments have latitude in how they use funds.
Representative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington and a leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said she was likely to vote no on the measure because of what she felt was a “lack of accountability around the detention system.”
“We’ve reduced that number over the next nine months, but the average daily population that we’re appropriating is still too high,” she said. “In the end, unless we have a guarantee from the administration that they’re actually going to listen to what Congress does and our appropriated amounts, we still have a president using every tool at his disposal.”
But the lawmakers who said they were inclined to vote against the measure were not actively seeking support for their position. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said that it was a matter of each member representing his or her district.
Under the complex funding formula in the agreement, the Department of Homeland Security would also have “reprogramming authority” to transfer as much as $750 million from other programs to detention slots.
Democrats have argued that with a new House majority, they can provide much harsher oversight than their Republican predecessors and push back on that maneuvering within the department and other federal agencies.
“We’re intent on making sure that this process reflects the congressional intent of where they should be on barriers, on beds, on all these issues that matter to us,” said Representative Pete Aguilar, Democrat of California and one of the 17 negotiators working on a border security agreement.
“We’re going to respect Article I of the Constitution here and do our job,” he added, referring to the part in the Constitution that gives Congress the power of the federal purse. “If they don’t, they can expect to be up here quite a bit.”