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Bipartisan border bill likely doomed in approaching U.S. Senate vote

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Bipartisan border bill likely doomed in approaching U.S. Senate vote

May 21, 2024 | 5:51 pm ET
By Ariana Figueroa
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Bipartisan border bill likely doomed in approaching U.S. Senate vote
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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, on Tuesday said he wants to see Republicans go on the record with a vote on a bipartisan border bill. In this photo, he speaks with reporters in the basement of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. (Photo by Jennifer Shutt/States Newsroom)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senate Democrats are pushing for a second attempt to pass a bipartisan border security bill that failed in February after Republicans walked away from the very deal they helped craft, and it’s likely to fail again when the Senate votes on the legislation Thursday.

“So why are we bringing this bill up the second time?” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who was one of three negotiators of the measure. “The answer is simple. Democrats care about border security.”

The expected vote comes as immigration has continued to rise as a top concern for voters in the polls and as the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, has centered his reelection campaign on the issue, promising to reinstate his previous policies and carry out mass deportations.

President Joe Biden called Republican leaders in both chambers Monday night to advocate for them to vote for passage of the bill that, among various things, would give Biden the executive authority to close the southern border when it’s overwhelmed.

“Mr. President, you caused this problem,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he told Biden in their phone call.

McConnell said he pushed for Biden to reinstate Trump-era policies such as the completion of the border wall and the so-called Remain in Mexico policy, which required asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while waiting for their cases.

“The president needs to step up to it, do everything he can do on his own, because legislation obviously is not going to clear this year,” McConnell said.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, already said in a statement that should the bill pass the Senate, it’s dead on arrival in the House.

Schumer says GOP must go on record

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said he wanted Senate Republicans on the record for voting on the stand-alone bill. Republicans last year originally said they would only vote for vital aid to Ukraine if a border security bill was attached.

“Do Republicans want to improve the situation on the border, or not?” Schumer said. “Maybe they’re happy with the way things are.”

Schumer said that Republicans were on board with voting for the border security bill, “until President Trump told them to make a U-turn.”

Murphy as well as Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona independent, and Republican James Lankford of Oklahoma spent months crafting a bipartisan border security bill that would overhaul U.S. immigration law. Senate Republicans walked away from the bill, eventually siding with their House colleagues and Trump.

South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Republican, said Democrats are only holding Thursday’s vote to protect vulnerable incumbents up for reelection this November such as Ohio’s Sherrod Brown and Montana’s Jon Tester.

“Where we are right now, this has become a political liability, a political vulnerability for the Democrats,” Thune said, adding “all the charades and political theater the Democrats are trying” are meant to protect incumbents.

The sweeping border security bill would raise the bar for migrants claiming asylum, clarify the White House’s parole authority and end the practice of allowing migrants to live in U.S. communities as they await their asylum hearings, among other things. 

The Biden administration expressed frustration after Senate Republicans voted to kill the border security deal, frequently blaming Trump and Republicans for walking away.

“Every day between now and November, the American people are going to know that the only reason the border is not secure is Donald Trump and his MAGA Republican friends,” Biden said in February.