Feb 5, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Senate GOP floats tactical retreat on border deal


Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The lead GOP negotiator of the Senate border deal emerged from a meeting on Monday night open to voting "no" on the first vote for his own bill.

Why it matters: Senate Republicans are heading toward delaying a sweeping national security package that has already been held up months amid intense negotiations over policies to crack down on the border.

  • "Why would we force a vote on something that would kill it to be able to force the vote now," Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), who has been lead negotiator for Republicans, told reporters.
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recommended a "no" vote on the first procedural vote set for Wednesday during the meeting, Punchbowl News reported.
  • "I would anticipate, Wednesday, the cloture vote does not pass," Lankford said. Blocking the procedural vote would avoid a fast-tracked vote that currently appears set to fail.

Between the lines: Senate Republicans say they want more time and a chance to change parts of the border bill they view as problematic.

  • But time is running out, with recess planned for the next two weeks, a government shutdown deadline approaching once again and a potential House impeachment to deal with.
  • Any significant changes to the bill would risk losing Democratic support. Already, a handful of progressives plan to oppose the package.
  • House leadership has made it very clear the bill would be dead on arrival, with little indication of any viable way around it.

Zoom in: The biggest point of contention in the border package is an emergency measure that would force the federal government to automatically turn back people illegally crossing the border once border encounters reach a weekly average of 5,000 a day.

  • It would block migrants from a chance at seeking asylum.

Republicans have claimed the policy will let in 5,000 migrants a day — something that the key negotiators have adamantly pushed back on.

  • Lankford and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) have said that the 5,000 does not refer to people being "let in." Some might be quickly deported if they fail the higher standard set for a first asylum interview. Migrants would be held in detention until at least that first test or placed in tracking programs.
  • "But it's been said wrong so many times that people immediately just go back to this lets in 5,000 people in a day," Lankford said.
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