House lawmakers take aim at family separations during HHS appropriations bill markup

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The House Appropriations Committee marked up a funding bill for Health and Human Services on Wednesday. (Pixabay)

House lawmakers took direct aim at the issue of family separations at the border as the appropriations committee weighed changes to a health, labor and education funding bill on Wednesday.

Among multiple amendments passed for the fiscal 2019 budget bill during the hearing, lawmakers added measures to require the Department of Health and Human Services to produce a comprehensive plan for family reunification to Congress at risk of penalties to its budget, along with regular reports about the status of children in custody.

Another proposed measure that would have required HHS provide a monthly report with specific numbers did not pass.

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RELATED: Questions raised over well-being of immigrant children separated from parents

Another amendment, proposed by health subcommittee Chairman Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., would allow adults and children to be detained together rather than separated while they await their case to move through the courts while another measure added to the bill would require HHS to prioritize keeping siblings together.

Following reports that some children had been given psychotropic drugs, another amendment added to the funding legislation would require a child be seen by a doctor before being administered any medications.

The issue involves HHS because it oversees the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which has been overseeing the care of illegal immigrant children.

RELATED: Doctor groups warn of ‘irreparable harm’ to migrant children separated from parents

The funding bill will now head for reconciliation with the Senate's bill which passed the appropriations committee in June.

Among other amendments considered and passed during the hearing were proposals to fund research into health concerns connected with climate change as well as a measure to allow funding for religious organizations that provide adoption services despite concerns raised by some members that those organizations might discriminate based on faith or sexual orientation in their placement decisions.