WASHINGTON — Key Senate negotiators said concluded a conditional contract adopting a tougher US immigration and asylum laws, marking a significant advance on a politically explosive issue as the 2024 election year continues.
But the pact is in jeopardy before senators can publish the text of the bill, which they hope to do in the coming days, pending a vote starting next week.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday that senators plan to release the “full text” of the immigration package, including aid funding for Ukraine and Israel, “tomorrow” and “no later than Sunday.” .”
“This will give members plenty of time to read the bill before they vote,” he said, adding that he planned to hold the first procedural vote on the package “no later than Wednesday.”
Sens. James Lankford, R-Okla., Chris Murphy, D-Conn. and Kyrsten Sinema, Rep. I-Arizona, the tentative agreement represents an ambitious effort to address a problem that has plagued Congress for decades. in the middle of an election year.
“For all intents and purposes, we have an agreement,” Murphy said.
The measure faces uncertainty in the Senate, a retreat from House Speaker Mike Johnson and a sustained bombardment of opposition from presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, which threatens Republican support. Some in the party worry that it could give President Joe Biden a victory over political weakness in his bid for re-election in 2024.
“I feel like a guy holding a metal rod in the middle of a field in a thunderstorm,” Lankford said, adding that the process has been “really intense.”
Lankford said he kept Johnson informed of the scope and details of the border bill throughout the process, keeping the speaker’s staff in check during the final stages.
But Johnson’s office retracted Lankford’s characterization of the discussions in a statement to NBC News: “Senator Lankford and his office have never provided Speaker Johnson’s office with the text of the proposed legislation or a written description of the new deportation authority. In conversation, they described it in less detail than was available in the published news.
The agreement envisages a three-pronged approach to defuse border chaos. First, it would limit the options for people to seek asylum outside the United States. Second, it would raise the bar for people at the border to get asylum. Third, it will speed up the processing of claims, cut off appeals if they are rejected, and End “catch and release” by implementing government monitoring of migrants throughout the process.
Sen. Kevin Cramer, R.N.D., said he was favorably inclined to support it, but said his prospects for controlling the GOP majority in the Senate are “dwindling” because some senators prefer not to “step up to the plate” for a complicated case. if the bill is unlikely to clear the House.
“The road to 25 is getting narrower,” Kramer said.
The bill needs 60 votes to pass the Senate. But RN.C, who is a supporter of the agreement. Sen. Tom Tillis said progress is impossible without the support of at least half the Republican caucus, or 25 senators.
One obstacle to releasing the text is securing sufficient funding to implement policy changes.
“I’m worried,” Murphy told reporters Thursday. “Republicans should be serious about funding the deal we made. Our political deal is done, but it requires the bill to fund the changes that Republicans are asking for.
Another reason for the delay is that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., spoke with his members to make sure there was enough support when the bill was released and won, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. ‘It should be changed after the fact to meet conservative concerns. (McConnell’s office declined to comment.)
Making it even more difficult for House Republicans Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorcas is about to be impeachedaccused him of refusing to implement immigration laws despite meeting with Senate negotiators to negotiate a new deal.
Meanwhile, Senate negotiators were playing a mole with a steady stream. allegations about the content of the bill in the conservative media, prompting a backlash based on allegations the senators insist are inaccurate.
In a rare call with reporters on Wednesday, Sinema defended the emerging deal and denounced the “distortion” of the Republican bill, calling comments made by hardliners, including Johnson, on Wednesday “factually wrong.”
“The rumors about what this legislation does are wrong,” he said. “Our bill ends with ‘catch and release.’ This ensures that the government both has the power to close the border when our system is under strain. And it creates new structures so that people who do not request asylum cannot enter the country and stay here.”
Pressure from Trump and Johnson on Senate Republicans could derail a deal backed by a contingent of hard-right senators and dash hopes of approving critical aid to Ukraine, Israel and Gaza refugees. It was the focus of a wide-ranging discussion among Senate Republicans during a closed-door luncheon Wednesday, but no concrete decisions were made, according to several senators who left the meeting.
“We’ve had a lot of discussions, obviously about the border here, but it’s important to focus on the other rationale for the annexation: We have two friends in the middle of a big fight, Israel and Ukraine. They need help,” McConnell, who helped Ukraine break away from Russia, told reporters on Wednesday.
“And I hope,” McConnell said, “that we can resolve this border issue satisfactorily, but here in the Senate there is bipartisan support for both Israel and Ukraine. And I hope that at some point we will get the help they need.” .
Negotiations collapsed around Thanksgiving before resuming as Democrats decided they were willing to pay a price to get aid to Ukraine.
They are also complicated by concerns from Democrats that the new executive powers are unfettered It can be abused by Trump or a future president like him. That’s why negotiators put a provision in the legislation that limits the number of days the border can be closed. Close the border when there are more than 5,000 encounters per day on average.
The legislation is likely to lose votes from a contingent of progressives and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who argue that Democrats have made too many concessions to the GOP without securing their own priorities, such as normalizing the status of young Dreamers. A child illegally in the United States.
The bill would significantly change the way migrants are “paroled” at the border, effectively ending the status quo. “It bothered me that it was even on the table,” said a senior member of the Spanish Group.
But many Democrats favor tougher immigration laws, and aid to Ukraine is an added incentive to get them on board. The main obstacle to the treaty becoming law is the conservative blow.
“Some people say, ‘I want you to do it differently.’ And my statement is: Great, go and negotiate it,” Lankford said. “If we can get this legislation passed as more than just a press conference, please go and negotiate it. My job is to legislate.”