Senate downs border bill for second time

The Senate rejected a bipartisan border bill on Thursday, marking the second time in recent months that legislation has been blocked as Democrats try to make political headway and give President Biden and sitting senators momentum.

As was widely expected, senators voted 43-50 in favor of scrapping the proposal, which Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Independent-Ariz.) had negotiated throughout the fall and winter. The bill lost support from its previous 49-50 vote in February.

The leading voter changer this time was Lankford, who was a Republican leader in negotiating the border bill before it was quickly scrapped.

The Oklahoma Republican told The Hill last week that Senators Schumer and Murphy had not discussed reopening the border with him, and instead sided with their GOP colleagues in arguing that the move was inherently political and that Democrats were not interested in achieving a legislative outcome at this point.

“Today is not a bill. Today is a prop. Today is a political messaging exercise,” Lanford said before the vote. “This doesn’t serve us as a country.”

Voting with Lankford against the bill were Sens. Cory Booker (D-Jersey), LaPhonza Butler (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Sinema.

Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J., DN) voted against the bill in February but was absent Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has repeatedly said in recent weeks that he wants to reintroduce the bill to underscore the point that former President Trump and his allies killed it for political purposes and that Democrats want action at the border.

“The American people want us to get things done. The American people want us to come together. The American people are not going to like that when they hear that the only reason Republicans walked away from this bill wasn’t because it wasn’t strong enough, but because Donald Trump wanted chaos at the border,” Schumer said on the floor Thursday.

“The public is on the same page. Polling data shows Democrats, Republicans, independents all on the same page. Let’s act on a bipartisan bill and get something done,” he continued. “No political games.”

Republicans have slammed those claims, saying Schumer is pursuing a blatant political agenda and that Democrats have failed to secure the border throughout Biden’s time in the White House.

The border vote is also seen by many as an attempt by Schumer to lend a hand to his Democratic colleagues who face a tough re-election battle in November, with the border becoming a key issue in Republican and Democratic states alike.

“They’re trying to do the right thing and they know they need political cover. To me, that’s what this is all about,” Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said Wednesday. “He knows this isn’t going to get results. It’s not going to pass the House. We’re not making the law here.”

“This is about political messaging and I understand that this is a huge political weakness for them. I understand why he’s doing this,” Thune continued. “But I don’t think this is going to work because people understand who the party on the border is, and it’s the Democrats.”

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in fiscal year 2024 An average of 217,000 migrants crossed the border In recent years, the number of crossings has reached a record high of more than 300,000 per month.

“How we got here is no mystery. President Biden and Vice President Harris promised to open the border on the campaign trail four years ago, and they literally started doing so on day one,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the floor.

The border bill emerged from tense three-way negotiations involving the Biden administration and staff from both Schumer and McConnell as part of an effort to win support from House Republicans for a national security supplemental budget and aid to Ukraine.

Republicans voted en masse against the measure within hours of it being announced in February, dooming it from the start, opening the door for Schumer to push through the package that included funds for Ukraine, Israel, the Indo-Pacific and humanitarian causes.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) eventually backed down and moved forward with a national security plan in April that included a ban on TikTok.

Updated 3:15 p.m.

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