Senate downs border bill for second time

Senate downs border bill for second time

The Senate voted down the bipartisan border bill Thursday, marking the second time it has been blocked in a matter of months as Democrats look to shore up their political troubles and give President Biden and incumbent senators a boost in the process.

In a widely expected outcome, senators voted 43-50 to take down the proposal, which was negotiated over the fall and winter by Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.). The bill lost support compared to the previous vote in February, which fell in a 49-50 tally.

Headlining those who flipped their votes this time around was Lankford, who was the lead GOP member throughout negotiations before the border bill met an unceremonious death.

The Oklahoma Republican told The Hill last week that Schumer and Murphy didn’t discuss the renewed border push with him and that he was siding with his GOP colleagues, arguing this current push was inherently political and that Democrats were not interested at this point in getting a legislative result.

“Today is not a bill. Today is a prop. Today is a political messaging exercise,” Lankford said ahead of the vote. “That doesn’t help us as a country.”

Joining Lankford in flipping their votes to no were Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Sinema.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) voted against the bill in February, but was absent Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said repeatedly in recent weeks that he wanted to put the bill on the floor again to drive home the point that former President Trump and his supporters killed the bill for political purposes, and that Democrats want action at the border.

“People want us to get things done. People want us to come together. And when they hear that the only reason Republicans backed away from this bill is not that it wasn’t strong enough, but that Donald Trump said he wanted chaos at the border, they don’t like that,” Schumer said Thursday on the floor.

“The public is on the same page. And in the polling data, Democrats, Republicans, and independents are all on the same page: act on a bipartisan bill, get something done,” he continued. “Don’t play political games.”

Republicans have panned those claims and maintain Schumer is the one pursuing a nakedly-political agenda, and Democrats have failed to secure the border throughout Biden’s White House tenure.

The border vote was also viewed by many as an attempt by Schumer to lend a hand to a number of his Democratic colleagues who are staring down tough reelection fights in November as the border is turning into a potent issue in red and purple states.

“They’re trying to get right, and they know they need political cover. To me, that’s all this is about,” Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said Wednesday. “He knows this is not going to get an outcome. It’s not going to pass the House. We’re not making law here.”

“This is about political messaging, and they understand it’s a big political vulnerability for them, and I get why he’s doing what he’s doing,” Thune continued. “But I don’t think this is going to work, because people realize who owns the issue of the border, and that’s the Democrats.”

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, fiscal 2024 has averaged 217,000 migrant crossings per month, with more than 300,000 crossings marking the high-water mark in recent years.

“It’s no mystery how we got here. President Biden and Vice President Harris were promising open borders four years ago on the campaign trail. And they started following through literally on day 1,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the floor.

The border bill emerged out of tense negotiations among the three, along with the Biden administration and staffers for Schumer and McConnell, as part of a bid to gain House Republicans’ backing of the national security supplemental and aid for Ukraine.

Republicans lined up en masse against it within hours of its release in February, dooming it from the get-go. That prompted Schumer to plow ahead on the aid package, which included funds for Ukraine, Israel, the Indo-Pacific and for humanitarian purposes.

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) eventually relented and moved ahead with his national security plan in April, which also included a potential ban of TikTok.

Updated at 3:15 p.m. ET

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.