Feb 1, 2024 - Politics & Policy

The real test for the Senate border package is about to begin

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., attends the National Prayer Breakfast in the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., attends the National Prayer Breakfast. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

After a four month, closed-door negotiation that faced fiery criticism from former President Trump and House Republicans, the Senate is preparing to start voting next week on its border and national security package.

Why it matters: The proposed bipartisan deal would be one of the most restrictive border bills in a century, paired with tens of billions of dollars of foreign military aid.

  • "I'm happy to report that the border policy section is in the very final stages," said Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), one of the lead negotiators, adding it would be submitted to the Senate appropriators Thursday evening.
  • The text will be released as soon as Friday as part of the full supplemental package, which will include tens of billions of dollars in aid for Ukraine and Israel, Sinema said.

What to watch: In a sign of plans to move quickly on the massive supplemental package, the Senate cancelled a planned recess on Monday.

  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the first vote will come no later than Wednesday.
  • "People need time to be able to look at it. I would hope that we've got amendments," said Sen. James Lankford (R-Oka.), the lead Republican negotiator.
  • "It needs more time than 'read it over the weekend,'" Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) told Axios, who said that time will be critical for reviving the deal which has been losing momentum.

What they're saying: Both Sinema and Lankford again pushed back on critics relying on rumors about the bill — loud critics have included Trump and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.)

  • "There's that saying that a lie can travel the world before the truth has a chance to put his shoes on. I think that's certainly something that we've been experiencing here," Sinema said.
  • "I hope they'll see it and go, 'oh, the 5,000 piece wasn't what was described to the internet,'" Lankford said, referring to a key criticism from conservatives that the deal would let in 5,000 migrants a day.

The bottom line: Getting the package through the Senate will be a difficult needle to thread, with some Republicans opposed to aid for Ukraine and senators on both sides unwilling to back the border deal.

  • Then there's the House threat. "I don't see any point in putting the whole thing up for us to vote on if it has zero chance in the House," Cramer told Axios.
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