Senate leaders push bipartisan border compromise but GOP hardliners dig in heels

Senate leaders Monday pushed for a bipartisan border security compromise but GOP hardliners are digging in their heels to derail the historic deal.

Both Republican and Democratic senate leaders were wrangling to reach 60 votes for the tough $118 billion bill, which includes a string of GOP priorities, in the evenly divided upper chamber.

But far right-wing Republican lawmakers vowed to block the bill at the behest of former President Donald Trump, who is warning against any bill that gives President Biden a political victory in an election year.

If the measure, which also includes desperately needed military aid for Ukraine and assistance for Israel, gets through the Senate, it faces an even tougher path in the GOP-held House, where Speaker Mike Johnson has proclaimed it “dead on arrival.”

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., meets with reporters during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024. Johnson holds a letter criticizing the Biden administration on border security. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., meets with reporters during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024. Johnson holds a letter criticizing the Biden administration on border security. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“Any consideration of this Senate bill in its current form is a waste of time. It is DEAD on arrival in the House,” Johnson said in a statement. “We encourage the U.S. Senate to reject it.”

The measure includes major concessions from Democrats on the border including turning away all undocumented immigrants and asylum-seekers if border crossings stay as high as they are now.

It would also dramatically beef up spending to border security agencies which have been overwhelmed in the face of increased numbers of migrants.

Despite including most of what Republicans say are needed policy changes, the bill is in serious danger of falling short of the needed 60 votes as Trump urges his MAGA allies to avoid doing anything that could benefit Biden.

“The ridiculous ‘Border’ Bill is nothing more than a highly sophisticated trap for Republicans to assume the blame on what the Radical Left Democrats have done to our Border, just in time for our most important EVER Election,” Trump wrote on his social media platform. “Don’t fall for it!!!”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says he could call the measure for a vote as soon as Wednesday.

More than 15 GOP senators and at least three liberals say they will vote against the deal. Others are demanding more time to go over the bill, most likely in hopes of scuttling it.

Proponents of the measure hope if the Senate passes the bill, pressure would build on the House to also pass it.

Johnson generally has the power to determine which bills come up for votes in the chamber, where it would need a simple majority to pass.

But there are procedural gimmicks to force a vote over Johnson’s objections, if supporters can win over a handful of moderate Republican lawmakers.

Senators have been working for months on the carefully negotiated compromise on the border, which is also designed as an end run around right-wing opposition to more aid for Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion.

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