Senate Again Blocks Border Bill With Support Lost From Both Parties

The bill, previously blocked by Republicans in February, was rejected in a 50–43 vote that included opposition from members of both parties.
Senate Again Blocks Border Bill With Support Lost From Both Parties
The U.S. Capitol building on May 15, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Joseph Lord
Stacy Robinson
5/23/2024
Updated:
5/23/2024
0:00

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Senate on May 23 again rejected a proposed border bill as the issue continues to dominate voters’ concerns ahead of the 2024 election. The bill was previously blocked by Republicans in February when it was rolled into a broader foreign aid package.

Republicans have criticized Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) decision to bring the bill back up for a vote, saying it was a political move aimed at bolstering Democrat messaging ahead of the 2024 elections.

The legislation, dubbed the Border Act of 2024, was rejected in a 50–43 vote that included more opposition from members of both parties than the previous vote in February.

The bill includes $20 billion in funding for border security and a mechanism to shut down the border after seven consecutive days of an average of 5,000 illegal immigrants encountered per day or if more than 8,500 illegal aliens are encountered in a single day.

Proponents of the bill say it would grant President Joe Biden additional authority to close the border and that it would alleviate the situation by providing new funding that could help stop the flow of fentanyl over the border.

“It’s a chance to show we’re serious about fixing the border,” Mr. Schumer said ahead of the vote.

Opponents contend that the bill might only make the situation worse—particularly through a clause that could effectively codify allowing 5,000 illegal aliens into the country per day.

Following the vote, President Biden condemned the bill’s rejection.

“Congressional Republicans do not care about securing the border or fixing America’s broken immigration system. If they did, they would have voted for the toughest border enforcement in history,” President Biden said in a statement. “Instead, today, they put partisan politics ahead of our country’s national security.”

In February, the bill failed to advance in a 50–49 vote, which saw support from four Republicans and opposition from four Democrats.

On May 23, several Democrats, including Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who caucuses with Democrats, voted against the measure.

These lawmakers tied their opposition to the measure’s lack of protection for “Dreamers,” the recipients of deferred immigration enforcement under President Barack Obama.

Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) and John Lankford (R-Okla.), key negotiators for the initial package, both defected to vote against the measure.

No Republicans supported the measure during its second round, with many saying the vote itself was a political ploy by Democrats that would only worsen the situation at the southern border.

Political PR War

The bill comes amid a public relations (PR) war among Republicans and Democrats on whose border credentials are stronger, as both sides continue to accuse the other of politicizing the issue, even as its failure on May 23 and during its original vote came as a result of bipartisan opposition.

That PR war comes as the border issue continues to dominate voters’ priorities in 2024, with poll after poll showing that voters have far more confidence in former President Donald Trump’s ability to handle the border than they do in President Biden’s policies.

Republicans say the whole package is unnecessary because President Biden already has the authority he needs to close down the border.

“The fact of the matter is that President Trump had the authority to secure the border. He did. Biden used that exact same authority to open it back up,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) told The Epoch Times.

Democrats extolled the effects that the bill could potentially have on reducing the flow of fentanyl into the country.

In a memo sent to the media, the White House accused Republicans of being on the side of fentanyl pushers.

“Instead of supporting legislation endorsed by the Border Patrol Union, congressional Republicans sided with fentanyl traffickers,” the White House stated.

President Biden has repeatedly endorsed the legislation and called on Congress to take it up.

Amid the debate, both parties are claiming—and responding to claims—that the other party is motivated primarily by politics.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) told The Epoch Times that the bill “seems like it’s a Schumer lifeline to guys like Tester,” a reference to Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who’s facing a tough reelection bid in ruby-red Montana.

“Biden could fix the border tomorrow if he wanted to—Trump fixed the border without additional authority,” Mr. Sullivan said. “So my message to President Biden? Fix the border the way Trump did.”

The sentiment was repeated by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who called the second push on the bill “completely a political stunt.”

Like his colleagues, Mr. Paul called on President Biden to fix the border with his preexisting authorities.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Democrats’ lead negotiator on the package, rejected the claim that Democrats were pursuing the bill for political advantage, blaming Republicans with political motives seeking to kill the bill.

“I think it’s pretty ironic for a party that openly admits they killed the bill for political reasons to claim that we’re trying to pass a law for political reasons,” Mr. Murphy told reporters.

He said it was very different from the House’s H.R. 2 border security bill, which he dismissed as “transparently a partisan political exercise,” while the Senate bill is “transparently bipartisan.”

“I just think ... Republicans have zero interest in fixing the border because they can’t imagine living in a world in which the border isn’t a political issue,” Mr. Murphy said.

Joseph Lord is a congressional reporter for The Epoch Times.
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