Senate Republicans Poised to Block Border Deal Ahead of Key Vote

‘We have no real chance to make a law,’ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters.
Senate Republicans Poised to Block Border Deal Ahead of Key Vote
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) speaks at a news conference after a weekly policy luncheon with Senate Republicans at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington on Feb. 6, 2024. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Jackson Richman
Joseph Lord

Senate Republicans are on track to halt a bipartisan border deal ahead of a key vote.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced the inevitable on Feb. 6: The bipartisan border and immigration agreement is dead in the Senate.

“We have no real chance to make a law,” he told reporters following the weekly caucus luncheons.

A vote to begin debate on the bill—a $118 billion supplemental bill that also includes a wide array of national security expenses, including funding for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan—is scheduled for Feb. 7.  A minimum of 60 senators is needed for the vote to succeed.

According to a whip list compiled by The Hill, at least 19 Republicans have publicly opposed the deal, along with two Democrats.
In a Feb. 4 statement, following the release of the supplemental text, Mr. McConnell called on senators to address the issues and approve the legislation.

“America’s sovereignty is being tested here at home, and our credibility is being tested by emboldened adversaries around the world,” he said.

“The challenges we face will not resolve themselves, nor will our adversaries wait for America to muster the resolve to meet them. The Senate must carefully consider the opportunity in front of us and prepare to act.”

In his statement, Mr. McConnell denounced the Biden administration’s border policies, including revoking the Trump administration’s requirement that asylum seekers remain in Mexico while their cases are under review.

“The Biden administration’s refusal to secure the border created an unprecedented crisis, and the urgent humanitarian and security consequences affect every state,” he said.

“It is time to force the president to start cleaning up his mess and equip future leaders with a system that works and new emergency tools to restore order.”

The supplemental includes $60 billion allocated to Ukraine, $14.1 billion to Israel, and $20 billion to implement border security measures.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) expressed what he said is “profound disappointment.”

“We have a problem facing our nation. Republicans challenged us to address it,” he told reporters.

“We worked in good faith to find a solution. At the last minute, Donald Trump pulled the rug out from all of us.

“I think it’s impossible for them to explain why they walked away from a bipartisan agreement to make America safer,” added Mr. Durbin. “And the border situation is obviously in need of attention right now.”

Seeking Stricter Border Policies

Wrangling over border security comprised the bulk of the negotiators’ time, as Republicans sought to gain stricter concessions on border security and Democrats sought less strict provisions.

Negotiated by Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), the package—if passed—would represent the largest border legislation in decades.

The bill provides a new emergency authority for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to restrict border crossings if an average of 4,000 daily encounters are made during one week.

If this threshold is reached, the DHS secretary could shut down the border by denying illegal immigrants the ability to apply for asylum.

But if average encounters reach 5,000 a day over a given week, the DHS secretary is required to shut down the border. The deal also limits the president’s parole authority, a power that gives the president the ability to allow more illegal immigrants into the country.

The deal raises the legal bar for the initial screening of asylum claims. It would also expedite the asylum processing time to six months from many years.

The package also doesn’t include a restoration of former President Donald Trump’s Remain in Mexico policy, which many Republicans have told The Epoch Times is a must-have.

President Trump, the frontrunner in the GOP presidential primary, has come out against the supplemental.

In a statement following the release of the text, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called it “a monumental step towards strengthening America’s national security abroad and along our borders.

“This is one of the most necessary and important pieces of legislation Congress has put forward in years to ensure America’s future prosperity and security,” said Mr. Schumer.

On Feb. 6, Mr. Schumer expressed opposition to individually dealing with the issues in the supplemental.

“I have always said that we must move forward on a bipartisan basis to pass critical assistance for Israel and to prevent Putin from overrunning Ukraine, deliver humanitarian aid to innocent Palestinians in Gaza, build up our military, and strengthen our allies in the Indo-Pacific, and of course securing our border,” he said.

“I’ve made clear to Speaker Johnson the only way to get all these things done is through bipartisanship.”

Nonetheless, in addition to House Republicans including House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), Senate Republicans are overall opposed to the measure.

During a closed-door Senate GOP meeting on Feb. 5, Mr. McConnell recommended that senators vote no on the cloture vote, according to a Senate source.

“I think the proposal is dead,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) told reporters after leaving the GOP meeting.

Even Mr. Lankford suggested he might vote no in the procedural vote if his colleagues weren’t ready.

“So that’s not the final passage,” he said. “That’s the beginning point.” “I can’t support a bill that doesn’t secure the border, provides taxpayer-funded lawyers to illegal immigrants, and gives billions to radical open borders groups. I’m a no,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) wrote on social media platform X. Mr. Daines called on President Joe Biden, who supports the agreement, to use his existing executive authority to secure the border.
“Throughout this process, I said I was listening and hoping for a solution, but to my disappointment, this bill misses the mark,” wrote Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) on X.

Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) told The Epoch Times that he is against the bill given the couple of days to read it ahead of the procedural vote.

Nonetheless, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters that if folks have objections to the bill they should propose fixes. Mr. Graham said he has not decided where he will side during the cloture vote.

Jackson Richman is a Washington correspondent for The Epoch Times. In addition to Washington politics, he covers the intersection of politics and sports/sports and culture. He previously was a writer at Mediaite and Washington correspondent at Jewish News Syndicate. His writing has also appeared in The Washington Examiner. He is an alum of George Washington University.
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