Jan 21, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump and House Republicans threaten to tank Biden's border request

(Photo by Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

The Senate-led border and foreign aid package is stuck in limbo, sharpening divisions between House and Senate Republicans and raising the likelihood that U.S. military aid to Ukraine will soon dry up.

Why it matters: Unlike the spending stopgap that passed Thursday, this package comes with no deadline to speed up negotiations — and House conservatives are ramping up the pressure on Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.).

State of play: President Biden has asked Congress for more than $100 billion in emergency foreign aid and border security funding, with the Senate leading the way on working up a deal.

  • GOP leaders pushed for border policy changes — a top priority for Republicans — to be attached to foreign aid as an incentive for conservative skeptics to support additional funding for Ukraine.
  • While the full framework has not been released, the Senate package is expected to include language on tougher asylum policies, increasing mechanisms to remove undocumented immigrants and restricting parole.
  • But Johnson has already raised red flags, saying Wednesday he doesn't "think now is the time for comprehensive immigration reform, because we know how complicated that is."

The intrigue: The Senate could consider its package as soon as this week, and Senate Republicans are urging their House colleagues to get on board.

  • "This is a unique opportunity to accomplish something in divided government that wouldn't be there under unified government," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Wednesday.
  • "[A]ny idea that somehow if we get majorities next year, and we get the White House, that this gets done with a Republican majority of the Senate, I think doesn't understand the Democrats," Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters.
  • "The Democrats will not give us anything close to this if we have to get 60 votes," Thune said. "We have a unique opportunity here and the timing is right to do this."

Zoom in: A furious pressure campaign against Johnson is making it likely that the package is dead on arrival in the House.

  • Former President Trump said last week that Johnson should only accept a deal that is "PERFECT ON THE BORDER."
  • "The bill's terrible," said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who bashed Thune's comments.
  • "Have any truer words been spoken about Senate Republican majorities?" Roy said Thursday. "It's like hey, give us the majority, we'll suck worse."

The big picture: Congress has long struggled to come to a consensus on immigration and border policy, and the House's razor-thin majority and threats to Johnson's gavel complicate its path during the 118th Congress.

  • Some sources have speculated that some Republicans would like to make the border a top campaign issue and that passing a bill could hurt their messaging by allowing Democrats to claim a win on the issue.
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