Republicans close ranks against Senate border security deal

Senate Republicans are vowing to block a bipartisan border security deal from moving forward on the floor, three months after Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) hailed it as a “huge success,” reflecting the rising partisan tensions of an election year.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans to hold a vote to advance it Thursday, but no Republican senator has yet said they will vote for it, even though it was endorsed by the National Border Patrol Council and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

McConnell, who helped negotiate the border security package earlier this year when it was attached to $61 billion in Ukraine aid, called the Democrats’ plan to bring it back to the floor “a gimmick.” And he said it has no chance of passing the Senate or the House.

McConnell told President Biden in a phone call Monday that Republicans will not vote for the border security deal they hashed out with Democrats earlier this year.

He instead urged Biden to address the border crisis through executive actions, even though administration officials have said for months they have limited authority to stop border crossings without congressional action.

“I said to him … Mr. President, you caused this problem. There’s no legislation that allows the problem to be fixed. Why don’t you just allow what the previous administration was doing,” McConnell said.

Republicans are pointing to Biden’s decision to stop construction of the border wall, expand the parole of migrants into the country, and end the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy.

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), the lead Republican negotiator of the bill, bashed Schumer’s plan to vote on the border security legislation as a piece of political theater intended to protect vulnerable incumbents, such as Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.).

Lankford said he would vote against advancing the bill, reversing his position from February, when he was one of only four Republicans to vote for it.

“This is not trying to accomplish something. This is about messaging now. This is trying to poke Republicans rather than try to actually solve a problem,” Lankford said.

Lankford said he hasn’t received any outreach from Democrats to resume negotiation on the legislation, which would reform the nation’s asylum laws and give the president emergency power to shut down the border once migrant crossings average 4,000 per day.

Republicans said they will vote to block the bill from coming up for a debate because they don’t expect to get any chances to amend it with proposals to make it stronger.

“They’re just trying to get political cover for some of their incumbents who are on the wrong side of the issue with the American people,” Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.) said.

Thune said he expects an overwhelming number of Republicans to vote to block the bill.

“If you could actually get amendment votes, it would be one thing, but he’ll shut that down,” Thune said of Schumer. “This is not a serious attempt to actually have a debate on this. This is actually, right now, purely and simply a political stunt.”

The three other Republican senators who voted to advance the border security deal in early February — Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Mitt Romney (Utah) — said they were undecided about whether they would vote for it again.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who is vying with Thune to succeed McConnell as GOP leader at the end of the year, urged GOP colleagues to oppose it.

“It’s a joke. A bad joke,” he said, arguing that securing the border is “something that Biden could do on [his] own.”

“I have no confidence that if we pass a new law, he will enforce that law when he has refused existing laws,” he said.

Schumer accuses Republican colleagues of following the marching orders of former President Trump, who urged GOP lawmakers earlier this year to oppose the deal because he wanted to keep the border as a major issue heading into Election Day.

“Let’s not forget, when this bill was being negotiated, Leader McConnell was also supportive of the effort. He insisted this has to happen as part of the [foreign aid] supplemental,” Schumer pointed out.

“It’s the same bipartisan bill both sides negotiated for months this winter,” he said. “It’s strong, tough and realistic.

“This is the same bipartisan bill Republicans pushed for then backed away when they got orders from President Trump [and] made an about-face turn and then voted no,” he argued.

The biggest drama heading into Thursday’s vote may be how many Democrats turn against the border security deal now that it has little chance of passing and isn’t attached to aid for Ukraine or Israel.

Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), who voted against the border security deal in February, said he would vote no again and noted it broke with the traditional Democratic position of asking for reforms to help migrants to be paired with border security measures.

“I’m a no vote,” he said. “Questions, concerns about what’s in the bill. Bigger issue with what’s not in the bill.

“Several of our [Democratic] colleagues who supported this package a couple months ago did so because it was the price of getting funding for Ukraine, and that’s no longer the case. That’s not an insignificant difference.”

“Most problematic is what’s not in the bill,” he added. “Not a single Dreamer is helped. Not a single farmworker gets any relief or protection. No long-term resident of the United States who happens to be undocumented is assisted here. This cannot be the new starting point for negotiation.”

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.