The Senate rejected on Aug. 4 a Republican-backed effort to add funding to restart construction of the border wall along the U.S.–Mexico border in the $1 trillion infrastructure package.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) was the only Democrat to vote in favor of the measure. The amendment, which failed in a 48-49 vote, required 60 votes in order to bypass a key legislative hurdle to be added to the infrastructure package.
The amendment, introduced by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), would have implemented other border security measures to curb illegal immigration in the midst of a surge of people crossing the border in recent months. In July, Customs and Border Protection officials encountered more than 200,000 illegal aliens along the border, according to the most recent figures released by the agency.
Republicans have said the immigration surge is a weak point in the Biden administration, accusing the White House of encouraging illegal aliens to come across the border with lax policies and weak messaging. President Joe Biden has issued dozens of orders that targeted Trump-era policies, such as ending the “remain in Mexico” protocols and suspending construction of the border wall, which former President Donald Trump championed during his 2016 campaign.
“This administration is in a complete state of denial regarding the crisis that is on the border,” Johnson said on Aug. 4 about his amendment. “President Biden is the root cause of this crisis.”
Johnson noted that border security used to be a bipartisan issue, noting that such legislation had previously been approved by Democrats, including Biden when he was a senator about 15 years ago. In 2006, dozens of Democrats, among them Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), voted to construct a fence along the Southern Border.
Of Johnson’s amendment, Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) described the border wall as a “boondoggle” from “the former administration.” Other Democrats, in echoing the Biden administration’s messaging on immigration, argued that instead of the border wall, the United States needs to look at the root causes of why people try to illegally cross into the United States.
But some Republicans, including lead infrastructure negotiator Sen. Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), described the wall as infrastructure.
“The border wall is infrastructure,” Capito said, according to the Washington Examiner. “It’s infrastructure to keep America safe. It’s infrastructure to prohibit drugs from entering the country, and it’s infrastructure to control illegal immigration.”
The infrastructure bill, which was negotiated over several weeks between the White House and a bipartisan group of senators led by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), includes $110 billion for roads and bridges, $66 billion for Amtrak and other rail projects, $73 billion for power grid updates, and $65 billion for broadband Internet expansion, among other measures.