Republicans Block the Bipartisan Deal to Fund Border Security and War

The now-dead agreement, touted by Biden, would have represented the most restrictive immigration overhaul in decades.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.Jim Lo Scalzo/EFE/ZUMA

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We are in an odd place when Republicans are voting down a bill that funds border security and war.

After months of negotiations, Senate Republicans have officially tanked a bipartisan border bill linked to a national security supplemental funding package. The now-dead agreement would have represented the most restrictive immigration overhaul in decades. And it would have given billions in aid to Israel and Ukraine. (Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) plans to strip the border security provisions from the larger national security bill and hold a separate vote on the latter.) 

President Biden has been urging Congress to pass the 370-page bill, calling it the “thoughest and fairest set of border reforms in decades.” But Donald Trump’s attacks coupled with House Speaker Mike Johnson’s statement that it was “dead on arrival” in that chamber led Senate Republicans to walk away from a deal largely catered to Republicans’ priorities. “The Senate bill has reforms Trump never came close to getting,” the Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote in support of the proposed legislation, which also garnered an endorsement from the Border Patrol Union representing some 18,000 agents. 

The proposal, spearheaded by Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), would have directed $20 billion in funding towards border enforcement, increased detention capacity, and raised the standards for initial asylum screenings.

At the center of it was a provision that would have created a new border expulsion authority allowing the Department of Homeland Security to quickly expel migrants arriving between ports of entry when the average daily border encounters reached 4,000 in the span of a week. (That authority would be mandatorily triggered when that number rose to 5,000 or 8,500 in a single day, but officials would still have to process at least 1,400 asylum seekers at ports of entry.) This expulsion authority, immigrant rights advocates and some Democrats opposed to the deal have warned, would potentially create more chaos at the border.

Still, immigration experts have described the axed proposal as a “mixed bag.” It would have created a new process to expedite asylum determinations and added 50,000 new family and employment-based visas, among other provisions.

In an analysis, the American Immigration Council said the bill represented a “serious attempt to acknowledge, and solve, some of the key problems with current border and asylum policy” but “positive steps in this direction are ‘smothered’ by a new ’emergency authority’ that repeats mistakes made by the Trump and Biden administrations: making protection much less available for those in need, while failing to send a clear message to future arrivals.” 

Perhaps most importantly, as I have written, the deal signaled President Joe Biden and some Democrats’ willingness to compromise on longstanding goals like pushing for the legalization of long-term undocumented immigrants living in the United States. That will be hard for many to forget.

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