WASHINGTON ― After months of painstaking negotiations, a bipartisan group of senators unveiled legislation seeking to address the surge of migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border, which Republicans had demanded in exchange for passage of more U.S. aid to Ukraine.
Senate leaders are planning to hold a procedural vote on the bill on Wednesday, forcing Republicans who insisted on a legislative fix to the border crisis to decide whether to allow debate on the bill or side with former President Donald Trump and filibuster it.
“If it’s good for the country but bad for Donald Trump, what do you choose?” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), the lead Democratic negotiator on the legislation, asked Friday in a post on X (formerly Twitter).
The legislation would expand the government’s authority to expel migrants, restrict claims for parole, and significantly increase the standard for those seeking asylum, which has long suffered from a lack of resources amid an overwhelmed immigration court system. It would also close the border if illegal crossings reach or climb past a certain average daily threshold.
President Joe Biden has said that if the bill were law today, he would “shut down the border right now and fix it quickly.”
Biden’s stance has angered Latino Democrats and the progressive wing of his party, who noted Biden once fiercely opposed Turmp’s tough immigration policies and who argued that restrictive border measures wouldn’t solve the crisis.
“I’m disappointed. President Biden was speaking very differently when he was campaigning,” Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) told HuffPost of Biden’s recent vow to shutter the border.
But the loudest criticism of the bipartisan agreement came from the right wing, even though the GOP has for years urged Democrats to address the crisis on the border, insisting that the flow of migrants is an urgent national security threat. Conservatives in the House and Senate have trashed the deal for weeks, before it was unveiled, as Trump urged them in public and in private to reject it.
“There is zero chance I will support this horrible open-borders betrayal of America,” Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, said earlier this week.
Some Republicans have openly admitted they don’t want to pass the bill and give Biden a victory that would allow him and other Democrats to say they fixed the border crisis ahead of the November election.
The GOP’s reversal on seeking tougher border policies in exchange for approving more military aid to Ukraine has sown chaos in the Senate Republican conference, which held several heated debates on the matter behind closed doors.
“This is what we asked for… let’s take up what we asked for,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said earlier this week.
The bill will need at least 60 votes to advance next week, but it will require even more GOP support to have a chance of swaying heavy opposition in the House. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has called it “dead on arrival,” jeopardizing the future of aid not just for Ukraine but also for Israel and Taiwan.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), who helped craft the legislation alongside Murphy and Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), said Congress would regret not passing the bill this year, with Democrats in power willing to make concessions on border policy.
“We have never had a package of this significance under consideration by the U.S. Congress. This is a unique moment, and I think we should take it,” Sinema said last month.
During an interview Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Sinema said she felt confident “that when our bill passes through the Senate and gets to the House, members of the House, including Speaker Johnson, will have had ample opportunity” to review the bill and then decide, “Do you want to secure the border?”
However, on Saturday, Johnson shared a letter to House Republicans announcing his plan to vote next week on a standalone Israel foreign aid bill without aid to Ukraine and with no cuts to the IRS, as Republicans previously sought. He also attacked the forthcoming broader Senate package, claiming that senators had “eliminated the ability for swift consideration” of their legislation.
The move is seen as an attempt to jam pro-Israel Democrats and put pressure on Republicans in the Senate to oppose the bipartisan bill.