Senate Rejects Border Deal Amid Bipartisan Opposition

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The Senate dismissed a bipartisan border proposal on Thursday, with Republicans labeling the vote as “political theater” in the run-up to the November elections.

The border initiative, initially linked to a broader foreign aid package, was rejected on the Senate floor in February, with nearly all Republicans opposing it, except for four.

Senate Democrats presented this second attempt as a standalone vote, positioning it as an opportunity to display Washington’s earnestness about border security. Meanwhile, Republicans saw the maneuver as a means to provide political cover for vulnerable Democrats facing reelection.

Similar to the February vote, Democrats experienced some defections, including Latino and progressive lawmakers who considered the bill overly harsh. New defections on Thursday included Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Laphonza Butler (D-CA).

In a surprising turn, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), the Republican who had negotiated the bill with Senate Democrats and the White House, voted against it, as did all GOP senators except for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

The final vote tally was 43-50.

Thursday’s vote, the initial procedural step for the bill, highlighted the persistent impact of the border crisis near the November election and the challenges of passing immigration legislation through Congress.

Lankford, along with the other central negotiators, aimed to advance the first significant legislation on the issue in decades but ended up in a blame game with his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), prior to the vote.

“This is not a bill. This is a prop now,” Lankford told the media, lamenting the lack of outreach from Senate Democrats on this occasion. “If we’re going to have an actual debate, you don’t just throw it on the floor and say, we’re going to vote on this again.”

Murphy countered the accusation. “Forgive me if I don’t want to throw away four months of really hard, difficult work,” he said. “Every single word of this bill was exhaustively negotiated with Republicans, including the Senate Republican leader, so it’s just bulls*** to suggest that this is some political show vote.”

Republicans had demanded the compromise in exchange for Ukraine aid over several months but ultimately withdrew their support for the final deal.

Democrats made concessions, including new asylum restrictions and limits on humanitarian parole, but a provision giving President Joe Biden the authority to close the border once crossings reach 4,000 daily doomed the bill’s prospects.

Republicans warned that the provision would institutionalize a certain level of illegal immigration as acceptable, a claim denied by the deal’s negotiators.

Democrats ultimately blamed former President Donald Trump’s opposition for the bill’s failure, suggesting Republicans wanted to maintain a political hotspot for the presidential election. Republicans argued that the bill would have provided Biden with political cover without resolving the border crisis.

Congress eventually passed Ukraine aid with the immigration proposal excluded.

Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., left, talks as Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Ct., right, listens during a news conference after a policy luncheon on Capitol Hill Wednesday, May 8, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

The border remains a significant issue three months later. Democrat Jon Tester, striving to retain his seat in heavily Republican Montana, has adopted a tougher stance on immigration. Earlier this month, he became the first Democrat to co-sponsor the Laken Riley Act, which would mandate the Department of Homeland Security to detain suspected criminal aliens.

Meanwhile, he and several at-risk Democrats supported the border bill on Thursday, including Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Jacky Rosen of Nevada, and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.

Before the vote, Democrats warned Republicans against obstructing a deal crafted in a spirit of bipartisanship. The messaging aimed to put the party on the defensive on an issue generally seen as a Democratic vulnerability.

Biden, who is anticipated to enact many of the deal’s components through executive actions, continues to receive low approval ratings for his border policies.

Republicans, spearheaded by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), attempted to counter this narrative over the last week, requesting unanimous consent on 13 bills that were blocked from floor consideration by the Democrats.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) sought to advance H.R. 2, the Republican-led House’s principal border bill, while Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) proposed a bill adding a citizenship question to the census.

“At every opportunity, Democrats refused to even consider this legislation,” Lee said in a statement. “Their politically motivated failure theater can’t hide the fact that they are the party responsible for this crisis and they are the party blocking solutions in the U.S. Senate.”

David Sivak
David Sivak
David Sivak manages the Congress and campaigns team. He was previously an editor at the Daily Caller, helping to stand up the outlet’s fact-checking arm. His work has been cited in publications ranging from Fox News to the Washington Post.

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