Published On: Tue, Feb 6th, 2024

Senate Republicans knife bipartisan border security bill, declaring it dead

Senate Republicans knife bipartisan border security bill, declaring it dead
Senate Republicans knife bipartisan border security bill, declaring it dead

WASHINGTON — Republican senators made clear Tuesday that they will kill the border security bill their party negotiated with Democrats, marking a stunning turnaround less than 48 hours after it was released by Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., and blessed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

McConnell — overruled by his Senate GOP members, House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and former President Donald Trump — conceded it has no path to passage.

“We had a very robust discussion about whether or not this product could ever become law. And it’s been made pretty clear to us by the speaker that it will not become law.” McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters. “So, I want to congratulate Sen. Lankford on a remarkable job of negotiating with the other side, getting the support of the Border Council. But it looks to me, and to most of our members, as if we have no real chance here to make a law.”

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., put it more bluntly: “The bill is deader than 4 o’clock.”

Within minutes of the bill’s release on Sunday, Republican senators began coming out against it. By Tuesday, opposition reached a fever pitch, including from within McConnell’s leadership team. It became clear they would not reach the necessary 60 votes to break a filibuster when the bill comes to the floor on Wednesday. That means aid to Ukraine and Israel will also be blocked for now.

“I would expect that the motion to proceed to the bill will fail,” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., referring to Wednesday’s planned procedural vote to begin consideration of the bill.

Asked if there’s any hope left for the bill, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., the lead Democratic negotiator, replied, “No.”

Immigrant families cross into the United States from Mexico to seek asylum
Immigrant families cross into the United States from Mexico to seek asylum on May 8, 2023, in El Paso, Texas.John Moore / Getty Images file

He said he’s outraged by Republicans who pulled a 180 on the bill.

“We crafted a bill that was too effective. We reached a compromise that would actually fix the problem. As it turns out, Republicans don’t want to fix the problem. They want to leave the issue of immigration open as a political agenda item to exploit,” Murphy told reporters. “It’s also dispiriting because there used to be a difference between the Senate Republican caucus and the House Republican caucus. There is no difference. They are just as dysfunctional. They are just as tied to President Trump.”

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., walking by Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., in the halls of the Capitol, told him: “It’s. Un. Fricking. Believable.”

What’s next is unclear. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., declined to say Tuesday if he’d split off the Ukraine and Israel aid provisions should the package with border provisions fail.

“We feel this is so important for the security of America at the border for the security of Ukraine and Israel, we’re going to keep at it,” Schumer said. “This is not the last Republicans will hear from us. We’re going to keep at it. We will have a vote tomorrow. We will move further forward. Stay tuned.”

Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., said he opposes the border bill but called on Congress to vote separately on the aid provisions.

“In the meantime, Congress should provide vital security assistance to Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan,” he wrote on X. “At this critical time, we cannot abandon these allies and partners or allow our support to be mired in political differences on immigration policy.

The House, meanwhile, will hold a separate vote on Israel aid Tuesday evening that is not guaranteed to pass. Johnson gave no indication Tuesday that the Republican-led House will allow a vote on Ukraine aid. He said the border security bill is “a nonstarter” in the House, but that he isn’t ready to support further aid. One member, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., has said she’ll force a vote to overthrow Johnson if he passes Ukraine aid.

“We’ll talk about the Ukraine measure going forward. that’s not been abandoned,” Johnson said. “But there’s a lot more work that needs to be done with regard to the answers that the White House needs to provide us.”

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