U.S. Senate blocks border-Ukraine deal, moves to consider plan B

The saga surrounding the border deal's unraveling also stirred up discontent among Republican senators with McConnell's leadership.

The U.S Capitol in Washington on Nov. 1, 2021. (Adobe Stock)

A controversial foreign assistance package that includes border security measures failed to pass a procedural vote in the Senate on Feb. 7.

The bill failed to garner the 60 votes needed to begin debate, with 50 senators voting against its advancement, and 49 voting in the affirmative.

The only Republicans who voted in favor of beginning debate on the bill were Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), and the deal’s top GOP negotiator James Lankford (R-Okla.)

The only Democrats who voted against starting debate were Sens. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who caucuses with the Democrats, also voted against its advancement. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) switched his vote to no for procedural reasons.

The bill’s defeat was expected after mounting opposition from Senate Republicans who took issue with the border policies, forcing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to acknowledge Tuesday that the bill has no chance of becoming law.

The Senate will now proceed to consider advancing a national security package that contains funding for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, without any border provisions.

“Republicans said they would only do Ukraine and Israel, humanitarian aid with border. Then they said they would not do it with [the] border,” Mr. Schumer told reporters ahead of the vote.

“Well, we’re going to give them both options. We’ll take either one. We just hope they can come to ‘Yes’ on something.”

The new $95 billion package includes $60 billion in assistance for Ukraine amid its war with Russia, and $14.1 billion for Israel amid its latest conflict with the terrorist group Hamas.

Senate Republicans explained to reporters why they voted against starting debate on the border-Ukraine package. Many took issue with a specific provision that mandated a border shutdown after daily illegal crossings hit 5,000 over a given week.

Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) said that President Joe Biden already has the authority to shut down the border.

Sen Josh Hawley (R-Okla.) said that this benefits businesses, citing the Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement of the measure, and that it makes the situation at the border “worse.”

The saga surrounding the border deal’s unraveling also stirred up discontent among Republican senators with Mr. McConnell’s leadership.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) Tuesday said it was time for the minority leader to step down. However, not all Republicans are ready to throw Mr. McConnell under the bus.

“I think we make too much out of all these things,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) told reporters. “So it’s all remarkable.”

“I really do believe that this place is like a Star Trek episode,” he continued, referring to the Senate. “Fifty-five minutes of drama. Somebody inconsequential died. Problem solved. Sell off to the next galaxy. I think people can make a lot over some inflection point the change in leadership … I just reject all that stuff.”

Mr. Tillis defended Mr. McConnell, saying he “is doing a fine job.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) sidestepped the question about Mr. McConnell’s leadership.

“I’m interested in securing our border,” he told The Epoch Times.

Controversial border deal

The now-blocked border deal was negotiated between Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.).

Former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner in the GOP presidential primary, came out against the initial supplemental.

The border provisions in the initial supplemental provide an emergency authority for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to shut down the border if an average of 4,000 daily encounters is reached over one week.

However, if average encounters reach 5,000 a day over the same period, then the DHS secretary is required to shut down the border.

The deal also limits President Joe Biden’s parole authority, a power that gives him the ability to allow more illegal immigrants into the country and raises the legal bar for the initial screening of asylum claims. It would also expedite the asylum processing time to six months from many years.

The package doesn’t include a restoration of President Trump’s Remain in Mexico policy, which many Republicans have told The Epoch Times is a must-have.

Following the release of the initial supplemental, congressional Republicans expressed outrage.

“I can’t support a bill that doesn’t secure the border, provides taxpayer-funded lawyers to illegal immigrants, and gives billions to radical open borders groups. I’m a ‘no’,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) wrote on social media platform X.

Mr. Daines called on President Biden, who supports the agreement, to use his existing executive authority to secure the border.

“Throughout this process, I said I was listening and hoping for a solution, but to my disappointment, this bill misses the mark,” Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) wrote.

“The terrible $118 billion supplemental worsens the border invasion, incentivizes illegal entry, sends more taxpayer dollars to Ukraine, and exacerbates our fiscal crisis,” Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), the chairman of the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus, wrote on X.

“Americans will see which Republicans are on their side based on who supports or opposes this disaster.”

The House GOP leadership — Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), and House GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) — released a joint statement on Feb. 5 denouncing the bill.

“House Republicans oppose the Senate immigration bill because it fails in every policy area needed to secure our border and would actually incentivize more illegal immigration,” they stated.

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

The second supplemental is also likely dead on arrival in the House.


Joseph Lord
Jackson Richman | The Epoch Times