Congressional Republicans, who spent months demanding that any aid to Ukraine be accompanied by a crackdown on immigration to the United States, got what they asked for when a bipartisan group of senators released a $118.3 billion deal that would provide both.
On Monday, many of them still rejected it.
It's the latest indication that the political basis for any deal on immigration – especially in an election year when this issue is expected to be a central issue in the presidential campaign – has disappeared.
With former President Donald J. Trump eager to attack President Biden's record on the border and right-wing Republicans in Congress lining up behind him, a compromise was always going to be a long shot. The long-awaited publication Sunday evening of the text of the 370-page bill only fueled Republican divisions on an issue that once united them.
Even as Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader and Ukraine funding advocate, took to the floor to push the bill, many of his fellow Republican leaders were saving it. President Mike Johnson denounced the measure as “even worse than we expected” and repeated what had become his mantra about the deal: that it would be “dead on arrival” at bedroom.
Even more moderate Republican voices, like Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who had encouraged the negotiations, said that after reviewing it, he harbored “serious concerns.” (Mr. Cornyn, who is often mentioned as a potential successor to Mr. McConnell as Republican leader, notably made the statement to the far-right media outlet Breitbart.)
He underscored bleak prospects for the complex compromise bill that followed a long-standing pattern on Capitol Hill, where major immigration deals have often been on the verge of being signed into law only to collapse just before the finish line after Republicans deemed them too weak.
The first test of the measure will come Wednesday, when an initial procedural vote is scheduled. He needs 60 votes to advance, meaning at least 10 Republicans would need to support him. Even if the bill clears this hurdle and could pass the Senate, there appears to be no path forward in the House.
“The $64,000 question now is whether or not senators can drown out the outside noise, drown out people like Donald Trump who want chaos and do the right thing for America,” said Senator Chuck Majority Leader Schumer in a speech on the Senate floor. floor Monday afternoon. “I urge senators of goodwill on both sides of the aisle to do the right thing and end the chaos.”
Mr. Schumer reminded his colleagues that “we live in an era of divided government, which means both parties must compromise if we are to pass a bill.”
Yet Republicans' withdrawal from the deal also threatens to undermine support on the left, where some Democrats are reluctant to back a bill that pro-immigration groups have denounced as a betrayal of American values and that some conservative groups as the National Border Patrol Council approved.
For Democrats who have pushed for any immigration measure to include legal status for large groups of undocumented people, including so-called “Dreamers” brought to the United States as children, a vote for a bill that has no such provisions and has no path to becoming anyway, the law is a bitter pill.
Among Republicans, there is even less enthusiasm for finding common ground at the start of an election year in which Mr. Trump is already winning the election. He once again made the border a central part of his campaign and encouraged Republicans to oppose anything short of the hardline policies he instituted as president. And his “America first” approach to foreign policy also helped undermine Republican Party support for sending aid to Ukraine for its war against Russian aggression.
Senator Steve Daines, Republican of Montana and chairman of the Senate Republican campaign arm, reiterated Mr. Trump's talking points on Monday, saying bluntly that he would vote “no” on the bill.
“I cannot support a bill that does not secure the border, provides taxpayer-funded lawyers for illegal immigrants, and gives billions to radical groups for an open border,” he said on social networks.
By Monday morning, at least 15 Republican senators and three Senate Democrats had made clear they would oppose the bill, raising questions about whether Mr. Schumer and Mr. McConnell would be able to secure the 60 votes needed. upon its adoption.
“Make no mistake, a challenge has been posed and America must meet it,” Mr. McConnell said Monday afternoon of sending critical funds to Ukraine.
But Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, his No. 2 who also pushed for the bipartisan deal, was evasive Monday, suggesting that Republicans might also be reluctant to support a measure criticized as too much weak if it could not become law. .
“People want a result,” he told reporters. “They want an outcome if we are going to follow this process.”
Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, who served as the lead Republican negotiator on the border deal, could not mask his frustration with his own party as he sought to explain the final product released after more than three months of daily negotiations. The same Republicans who complained about needing more time to read the bill, Mr. Lankford said, were quick to denounce it on social media.
“Are we, as Republicans, going to hold press conferences and complain about the poor state of the border, then intentionally leave it open after the worst month in American history in December? he said on “Fox & Friends.”
The answer was clearly yes.
Some progressive senators also said the deal missed the mark.
California Sen. Alex Padilla, who is Hispanic, condemned the bill because it fails to provide relief to Dreamers and makes it harder for migrants to obtain asylum. He lamented that no member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus was included in the negotiations.
“While bipartisanship requires political compromise, it does not require compromising our nation's core values,” said Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Global Refuge, calling the bill an abandonment of ” our legal and moral obligations towards those seeking refuge.” .”
Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat, said in a statement that he was holding his nose in supporting the bill, largely because the future and fate of Europe were linked. to this mixture.
“Bipartisan agreement can help, but only comprehensive reform will truly solve this problem,” he said in a carefully worded statement. In the Senate, he lamented that the measure would provide no relief to Dreamers.
“Without action from Congress, they spent each day in fear of deportation,” he said. “They grew up alongside our children; many have continued to serve our nation.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus said Monday night that funding Ukraine is not a good enough reason to support a bill that includes policies that are inconsistent with its values.
“We cannot just throw up our hands and accept bad immigration policies that destroy asylum, and could set back real, comprehensive bipartisan immigration reform by 10 to 15 years, for temporary relief,” said Rep. Nanette Barragán of California, chair of the caucus. A declaration.