WASHINGTON — In a surprising turn of events, Senate Republicans threatened to block Monday a massive, bipartisan package of border security and asylum restrictionsjust one day after their chief negotiator signed it.
GOP senators left a special closed-door session late in the evening anticipating their party would not have enough votes to move forward with the package on Wednesday, saying they recognize that senators need more time to negotiate changes in the form of amendments to the bill.
“I expected a no vote on Wednesday,” Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., the lead GOP negotiator on the border talks, told reporters after the meeting. “People say, ‘Hey, I need more time to get over this.'”
Republican concerns could be devastating for the package, which House Republican leaders have already said is “dead on arrival” in the lower chamber. Supporters hoped that strong, bipartisan support in the Senate could force the House’s hand.
The shift comes as Donald Trump is urging Republicans to break the deal they struck with Democrats, currently championed by President Joe Biden, as the presumptive Republican nominee in 2024 seeks to use immigration as a political weapon in the fall election. Trump tore up the bill on social media calls him “It’s nothing more than a very elaborate trap for Republicans to take the blame for what the Radical Left Democrats have done to our Border.
Senate Minority Whip John Thune, RSD, told reporters that Republicans are concerned that there has not been “adequate time” to consider the bill. “I think it’s fair to say that everyone thought Wednesday’s vote was a very early vote,” he said.
The 370-page bill, finalized and released Sunday, was introduced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who defended it on the Senate floor Monday and warned of crises at the southern border and internationally. In addition to new border provisions, the package includes aid money for Ukraine and Israel. “Now is the time for Congress to act on additional national security legislation that fully addresses these challenges,” he said.
But hours later, as Senate Republicans met behind closed doors and opposition continued to mount, McConnell, one of the staunchest GOP supporters of Ukraine aid in Congress, gave his members the green light to oppose Wednesday’s procedural vote. McConnell told Republicans if they had reason to vote against the bill, given the ongoing negotiations over amendments and how to proceed, a source with knowledge of the meeting said.
Democrats were stunned to see Republicans abandon the pact.
“He was just amazed. I’ve never seen anything like it.” he said Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, is a member of the Democratic leadership. “They literally asked for a specific policy, got it, and then killed it.”
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., the chief Democratic negotiator, called the GOP’s audacity on its deal “embarrassing.”
“You told us that you want to build a bilateral border. You appointed the Republican negotiator. WE GOT A CONTRACT,” he said He wrote in X. “Stop the drama – do you want to fix the border or do you want to keep the border chaotic to help Trump? Just decide pls.”
The vote currently scheduled for Wednesday is a procedural vote to move on to debate the legislation. This vote, called a draft regulation, needs 60 votes to pass. If it fails, the bill will remain on ice indefinitely until 60 senators agree to restart debate.
Senate Republicans walked out of Monday’s session, calling the debate “robust”; At one point, reporters could hear Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., loudly in the room, while Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, shouted, “Time!” Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, an outspoken opponent of the bill, left the session saying the chamber was “not super-progressive” on the immigration package.
“It was a discussion of the provisions, the substance, the process,” Sen. John F. Kennedy, R-La., said after the meeting. “Even if I fully understand the bill and we go through it line by line, I would not vote to suspend it out of respect for my colleagues, because many of them, I feel, are not as far along as we are. .”
Within minutes of the bill’s release on Sunday, conservative senators and House Republicans began blasting it. House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La. and his leadership team issued a joint statement declaring him “DEAD” in the House of Representatives.
Lankford was stunned by the tenor of GOP opposition.
“Frankly, I was surprised that some people said, ‘It’s going to take me days and weeks to read the bill,’ but within minutes they were tweeting their objections,” he said. Monday.
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., an outspoken McConnell critic who unsuccessfully challenged him for the leadership position 15 months ago, He wrote in X: “Time and time again, Senate GOP Leadership has pushed bad bills without questions or input from members. We have said enough today.”
The package’s co-author, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., told reporters Monday that there was “a lot of misinformation still floating around about the legislation” and was concerned that election-year politics were driving some of the opposition. .
“We are raising the standard of shelter. We’re increasing detention beds so that unmarried adults who enter and end up in prison during asylum interviews — and if they can’t provide evidence at a higher level of scrutiny — are deported. Family units — we can’t keep them due to Flores — are under surveillance and interviewed within 90 days. If they fail to provide proof of a higher standard with three bars within these 90 days, they are swiftly deported.
Asked if the experience would make him hesitant to do another deal in the future, Lankford said, “I need sleep. So for me, I’m not interested in jumping into the next big thing.”