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Senate Republicans block bipartisan border security deal

Senate Republicans voted Wednesday against advancing a bipartisan border security deal that was part of a larger emergency foreign aid package to fund the war in Ukraine, Israel and Indo-Pacific security.

A motion to proceed to the package failed by a vote of 49-50, with most of the Senate GOP conference voting against it. Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), James Lankford (Okla.) and Mitt Romney (Utah) voted to advance the measure.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voted no, citing opposition to $10 billion in military aid to Israel given the deaths of more than 27,000 Palestinians in Gaza. Democratic Sens. Ed Markey (Mass.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), Alex Padilla (Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) also voted no.

Schumer said earlier Wednesday that he intends to move on to a Plan B after the failed vote and put a package on the floor that contains aid for Ukraine, Israel and other foreign policy priorities — but doesn’t include the border deal. He voted “no” on technical grounds that will allow him to offer the motion to reconsider.

The development marked a dramatic shift among Senate Republicans, who for months have insisted that any funding for Ukraine must be paired with reforms to secure the border.


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That demand prompted Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to appoint Lankford to negotiate a deal with the White House and Senate Democrats to raise the standard for migrants seeking asylum and give Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas emergency power to deport migrants.

It also would have provided $6.8 billion to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, $7.6 billion for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and $4 billion to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Altogether, it would have invested $20.2 billion in improving border security.

McConnell and Lankford hailed the deal for delivering major wins for Republicans, though they acknowledged they didn’t get every reform they wanted from the four-month negotiation.

McConnell noted several times on Tuesday that the deal received the endorsement of the influential National Border Patrol Council, which he said showed it was a “quality product.”

The border security deal was part of a $118 billion national security supplemental package that included $60 billion for Ukraine, $14 billion in security assistance for Israel and $10 billion for humanitarian assistance for civilians in Gaza, the West Bank and Ukraine.

But the Republican backlash was fast and furious after the negotiators unveiled the details of the deal shortly after 6 p.m. Sunday.

Former President Trump wrote on Truth Social that “only a fool, or a Radical Left Democrat, would vote for this horrendous legislation.”

Senate conservatives led by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) took the lead within the Senate GOP conference in opposing it. They warned it would make the border crisis worse by encouraging even more migrants to cross the border.

“Why is this bill a terrible bill? Because it does not solve the problem,” Cruz declared at a press conference, at which he took shots at the Senate Republican leadership for negotiating the deal with the White House and Senate Democrats. “This bill was designed not to secure the border. Instead, this bill codified Joe Biden’s open borders.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) asks questions during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with social media executives to discuss protecting children from sexual exploitation on Wednesday, January 31, 2024. (Greg Nash)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) slammed his Senate Republican colleagues for blocking the border security reforms they have demanded for months.

“Apparently Republicans aren’t actually serious about fixing the border because you cannot, you cannot claim to be serious about fixing the border while voting against the kind of border package we have before us today,” he said.

He cited the endorsement of the National Border Patrol Council but argued that its influence was outweighed by Trump’s opposition to the deal.

“Why have Republicans backed off on border when they know it’s the right thing to do? Two words — Donald Trump. Donald Trump doesn’t like that the Senate finally reached a real partisan border deal,” he said.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) rose on the Senate floor to counter Schumer’s attacks, defending Republican opposition to the border deal as a reaction to what they view as President Biden’s failure to enforce immigration laws already on the books.

“The fact of the matter is we have no confidence, zero confidence, that the Biden administration will enforce the law when it comes to the border,” he said.

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