Republicans Unite To Block Border Bill Again As Election Year Fight Heats Up

WASHINGTON — The Senate rejected for a second time a border security package Republicans helped draft in February before turning around and killing it at the demand of former President Donald Trump, their presumptive 2024 nominee, who didn’t want to give President Joe Biden an election-year win.

Only Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska.) voted to advance the measure on Thursday. Several progressive Democrats also opposed the bill.

The legislation would give the president new emergency authority to restrict border crossings if daily average migrant encounters reach a certain level, raise the standard of proof for granting asylum, expedite asylum processing and give more money to border patrol agents, among other measures.

GOP senators accused Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) of playing politics by scheduling a vote on a bill they had previously rejected, an effort they said was really aimed at bolstering the campaigns of vulnerable Democratic incumbents in the Senate.

“This bill today is a prop, it’s a pure messaging vote and a fundraising piece for Democrats to be able to run out and say, ‘See, we want to do border security and those rascally Republicans don’t want to do it,’ which is absolutely absurd,” Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said Thursday on Newsmax.

Lankford, who helped negotiate the border provisions with a small bipartisan group earlier this year, previously complained about his GOP colleagues bailing on a proposed border crackdown that had been endorsed by the conservative Border Patrol union. He did not disavow the actual content of the legislation, which he voted for in February and against on Thursday.

“We need to get together, stop the politics and the messaging and the Democrat fundraising emails that are going out on this, and let’s actually solve the problem,” Lankford said.

Democrats, meanwhile, criticized the GOP for walking away from one of the best chances for making bipartisan reforms to address the influx of migrants on the border, something Republicans have been calling an urgent crisis for years.

“It would have gotten done had Donald Trump not said, ‘I don’t want this done, blame it on me, I want chaos at the border so I can win reelection,’” Schumer said ahead of the vote on Thursday.

“That’s not what the American people want. The polling data is clearly on our side,” he argued.

The situation on the border has surged to the top of voters’ minds over the past year, dogging Biden’s presidency and standing in the polls. Democrats are hoping to blunt Republican attacks over the border by highlighting their obstruction to real reforms in Congress. The White House is also considering a series of executive orders aimed at stemming the tide of migrants on the border, but any meaningful action will require legislation.

Next month, Senate Democrats will go on offense by scheduling votes on legislation to protect abortion rights and contraceptives. They, too, will likely fail. The upper chamber is in full election mode, with little chance of real legislating between now and until after November.

Several Democrats who supported the border bill in February when it was attached to critical assistance for Ukraine and Israel voted not to advance it as a standalone measure on Thursday. The new border bill lacked pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, which had been the prize for Democrats in past bipartisan immigration bills.

The bill will “exclude people fleeing violence and persecution from seeking asylum and instead doubles down on failed anti-immigrant policies that encourage irregular immigration,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said in a statement.

“This cannot be the new starting point for immigration negotiations,” Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), who opposed the bill as well as the previous version, told HuffPost.

Meanwhile, Murkowski, who also supported the border bill earlier this year, voiced frustration about the border politicking by calling the whole exercise “dumb.”

“How would you explain this to an 11-year-old?” Murkowski asked before summing up the GOP flip-flop on the border package. “I supported something because I think it was going to help us improve our laws, but we pulled back on that because there were some who thought that it was going to be more important to use it as a message against their opponents, and so we didn’t advance it.”

As a result, she said that Democrats are now “going to use it in a way to perhaps make some of their troubled incumbents in a better place, but they don’t really think that they can pass it, so it’s just messaging on their side.”

“Explain what’s going on to somebody who is not part of this building. They think we’re nuts. They’re like, can you just fix the border?” Murkowski said.