Border Deal Fails Again in the Senate as Democrats Seek Political Edge

Border Deal Fails Again in the Senate as Democrats Seek Political Edge

Senate Republicans blocked a bipartisan border surveillance bill on Thursday for the second time this year. They rejected a law they initially insisted on to curb an influx of migrants across the U.S. border with Mexico President Donald J. Trump.

The vote amounted to a political trap set for Republicans by Sen. Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat and majority leader, who called it in hopes of using the bill’s second defeat to create an election-year contrast with immigration to the GOP, an issue that polls show poses a major potential liability for President Biden and his party.

On a vote of 50-43, the measure failed after falling well short of the 60 votes needed to advance in the Senate. Four Democrats who believe the border protection provisions are too extreme voted to block their further development, along with almost all Republicans who condemned them as too lax.

The bill would effectively mandate that the border be closed to migrants entirely if numbers reach uncontrollable levels and seal it if the average number of migrants encountered by immigration officials over the course of a week exceeds 5,000, or 8,500 a certain day – as is the case has happened in the last few months. The bill would allow the president to do so unilaterally if the average reaches 4,000. And it would significantly expand detentions and deportations by funding thousands of new Border Patrol agents and personnel and investing in new technologies to catch drug smugglers.

“Just like three months ago. Senate Republicans rejected the strongest, most comprehensive bipartisan border security legislation Congress has seen in a generation,” Schumer said. “It’s a sad day for the Senate, a sad day for America.”

In recent weeks, Democrats have circulated memos highlighting how they plan to use Republican opposition to the bill to neutralize Republican attacks on the Biden administration over its handling of the border. The number of migrants caught crossing the United States’ southern border reached record highs during the Biden administration.

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, criticized the Biden administration’s border policies and insisted that Mr. Biden take action using an executive order.

He called the legislation pushed by Mr. Schumer a “distraction.”

“The solution is a president who is willing to exercise his authority and use the tools already at his disposal to clean up this mess,” McConnell said.

Republicans initially insisted on a border protection bill as a prerequisite for passing aid to help Ukraine fight the Russian invasion. Mr. McConnell appointed Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma as the Republicans’ chief negotiator and worked with Senators Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, and Kyrsten Sinema, R-Arizona, as well as Biden administration officials to reach a deal.

After months of negotiations, the group reached an unlikely compromise in February.

The union representing frontline Border Patrol agents supported the bill.

But Speaker Mike Johnson said the bill was “dead from day one” and argued it fell far short of a stubborn conservative bill the House passed along party lines. That bill faced opposition from Democrats, including in the White House, where officials said it would “cut off nearly all access to humanitarian protection in a way that is inconsistent with our nation’s values ​​and international commitments.”

Shortly thereafter, Mr. Trump entered the stalemate, calling for the repeal of the bipartisan border law while taking full responsibility for its failure.

“As leader of our party, there is no chance that I will support this terrible open border betrayal of America,” Trump told supporters at a January rally in Las Vegas. “I will fight this all the time. A lot of senators are respectfully trying to say they blame me. I say that’s fine. Please blame me. Please.”

Mr. Johnson again called the law a “bad bill” on Wednesday and insisted that the Senate pass the Republicans’ more restrictive bill that would reinstate several Trump-era immigration policies.

“It really is fake messaging,” Mr. Johnson said of Mr. Schumer’s move.

Mr. Lankford, who originally defended the bipartisan bill he negotiated, voted against the bill on Thursday. He argued that Mr. Schumer was now playing political games with the measure.

“Today I will be voting no on a bill that I think should be passed, but no effort has been made to actually push it through,” Mr Lankford said.

Only one Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted to advance the bill on Thursday.

Four Democrats – Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey, Laphonza Butler of California, Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, Alex Padilla of California – and two independents, Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Ms. Sinema, voted against passage of the bill.

Ms. Sinema condemned both parties, saying they were trying to profit politically from the issue rather than making a real attempt to address it.

“The Senate and our country face significant challenges, and clearly this is not a Senate that is interested in solving those challenges,” Ms. Sinema lamented.

But most Democrats had been touting the bipartisan bill’s provisions all week. On Wednesday, several senators held a press conference to highlight measures to combat fentanyl trafficking. The legislation would have increased funding for the Drug Enforcement Administration to dismantle cartels and funded new technology aimed at quickly detecting fentanyl at checkpoints, leading to arrests.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Democrat of Nevada, said she visited Border Patrol agents who told her they needed the additional officers and reinforcements the bill would have funded.

“They are overwhelmed and understaffed,” she said of the agents. “You need help.”

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2024-05-23 19:38:41