The effort to pass the Senate’s bipartisan border bill collapsed Tuesday after Republicans backed away from the package, effectively punting on the issue until after November and infuriating Democrats in the process.
Top Senate Republicans said they would block the chamber from beginning to consider the bill, with more than half the conference declaring their outright opposition. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) had planned to bring the $118 billion supplemental to the floor Wednesday.
That seemed to mark the death of the proposal crafted by Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) — less than 48 hours after they unveiled the package they spent months negotiating.
“It looks to me, and most of our members, we have no real chance here to make a law,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said during his weekly press conference.
The reaction of the GOP conference had come in swiftly after the text of the bill was released Sunday evening. Republicans derided the process used to write the bill and heaped criticism on provisions they claimed would allow 5,000 migrants into the country each day — a talking point Lankford and his fellow negotiators vehemently refuted but struggled to counter.
That quick condemnation, in turn, angered Democrats who were unable to hide their disdain for how the previous two days unfolded.
They argued Republicans had misled them after insisting on linking the border to aid for Ukraine back in October. That idea was eventually backed by Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who Sunday declared the Senate border bill “dead on arrival” in the House.
“How can you trust any Republican right now? How would we know what to do next?” Murphy told reporters. “They told us what to do. We followed their instructions to the letter and then they pulled the rug out from under us in 24 hours. Who are we supposed to work with over there? They are a negotiating nightmare.”
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“Look what they did to James Lankford. It’s disgusting what they did to James. They put him out there and asked him on their behalf to negotiate a compromise and then they didn’t even give him a chance to argue the merits,” Murphy continued. “These are not serious people.”
Murphy’s frustration was also on full display during a floor speech in which he declared that the Senate GOP is indistinguishable from their counterparts in the House, and the conference cares only about former President Trump.
Trump had spent weeks urging Republicans in Congress to kill any action on the border until after the election.
Lankford said Monday that the bill was a “work in progress,” but it quickly became clear Democrats weren’t ready to make further concessions, and Republicans signaled they are willing to wait to see if Trump wins back the White House.
“Americans will turn to the upcoming election to end the border crisis,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 member of leadership, said in opposition the border bill.
That idea seemed to frustrate Lankford.
“Americans always decide every four years what direction they’re going to go on it,” Lankford said. “I would only say, as well, there’s a major need for us to be able to fix law when we can, and this moment doesn’t come very often.”
Despite the widespread opposition to the bipartisan blueprint, Senate GOP leaders and others in the conference avoided blaming Lankford, who is widely considered a thoughtful member with strong conservative credentials. It was apparent though that Lankford felt burned by the past few days, saying he felt like he’d been run over by a bus.
“And backed up [over],” he quipped.
Senate Republicans argued there were reasons besides Trump’s opposition for the collapse of the bill, including timing and the White House being slow to get involved.
“It was doomed to fail once we passed Christmas,” Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) told The Hill. “If you would have done this before Christmas, I think the process would have been very different.”
With the issue off the legislative table and squarely part of the 2024 campaign, Biden didn’t waste any time criticizing Republicans and Trump for the lack of legislative action.
“All indications are this bill won’t even move forward to the Senate floor. Why? A simple reason: Donald Trump. Because Donald Trump thinks it’s bad for him politically,” Biden said from the White House. “He’d rather weaponize this issue than actually solve it.”
The nuking of the border bill now spells an uncertain future for other parts of the emergency supplemental request, including funding for Ukraine and Israel. Senate Republicans said they did not discuss how they could possibly move aid for Ukraine in the coming weeks and months during their weekly luncheon Tuesday.
The lack of support for Ukraine also has Democrats licking their wounds after this failed border push. Members indicated that they were also taken aback by the sheer speed and relentlessness of the GOP opposition and signaled that they are likely at their wits’ end on border discussions.
“I’m surprised that I’m surprised that some of these folks who worked so hard for months on this are now announcing their opposition to the bill. I was here in 2013. I was here in 2018. I’ve seen this show before — but I believed this time it was serious and [that] they actually wanted to fix the problem,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), referring to past immigration and border discussions on Capitol Hill.
The Delaware Democrat also gave Lankford high marks for his work in recent months, noting he won items in the bill he and others never thought would be on the table. Some Democrats had been concerned about possible restrictions to the asylum and parole systems.
“I know how hard he is to negotiate with. I have a lot of respect for James. He’s a very conservative man and he worked very hard on this negotiation,” Coons said. “He got concessions out of us I didn’t think we’d ever make that are in the best interest of securing the border.”
“I am surprised that we seem to be where we are,” he added.