Posted on February 6, 2024

G.O.P. Backlash to Border Deal Reflects Vanishing Ground for a Compromise

Annie Karni, New York Times, February 5, 2024

Republicans in Congress who have spent months demanding that any aid to Ukraine be paired with a crackdown against migration into the United States got what they asked for when a bipartisan group of senators released a $118.3 billion agreement that would provide both.

On Monday, many of them rejected it anyway.

It was the latest indication that the political ground for any agreement on immigration — particularly in an election year when it is expected to be a central issue of the presidential campaign — has vanished.

With former President Donald J. Trump eager to attack President Biden’s record on the border and right-wing Republicans in Congress falling in line behind him, a compromise was always going to be a long shot. The long-awaited release on Sunday night of the text of the 370-page bill only served to inflame Republican divisions on an issue that once united them.

Even as Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader and a champion of funding for Ukraine, took to the floor to push for action on the bill, many of his fellow Republican leaders were savaging it. Speaker Mike Johnson denounced the measure as “even worse than we expected” and, in a joint statement with his leadership team, repeated what had become his mantra about the deal — that it would be “dead on arrival” in the House.


The first test for the measure will come on Wednesday, when an initial procedural vote is planned. It needs 60 votes to advance, meaning at least 10 Republicans would have to back it. Even if the bill scales that hurdle and could pass the Senate, there appears to be no path forward in the House.


Yet the Republicans’ retreat from the deal also threatened to sap support on the left, where some Democrats are reluctant to support a bill that pro-immigration groups have denounced as a betrayal of American values and that some conservative groups like the National Border Patrol Council were endorsing.

For Democrats who have pressed for any immigration measure to include legal status for large groups of undocumented people, including the so-called Dreamers brought to the United States as children, a vote for a bill that contains no such provisions and has no path to becoming law anyway is a bitter pill.

Among Republicans, there is even less enthusiasm for finding any middle ground at the start of an election year in which Mr. Trump is already winning nominating contests. He has once again made the border a central plank of his campaign and encouraged Republicans to oppose anything short of the hard-line policies he instituted as president. And his “America First” approach to foreign policy has also helped to sap G.O.P. support for sending aid to Ukraine for its war against Russian aggression.

Senator Steve Daines, Republican of Montana and the chairman of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, reiterated Mr. Trump’s talking points on Monday in saying bluntly that he would be a “no” vote on the bill.

“I can’t support a bill that doesn’t secure the border, provides taxpayer funded lawyers to illegal immigrants and gives billions to radical open borders groups,” he said on social media.


Some progressive senators also said the deal missed the mark.

Senator Alex Padilla of California, who is Hispanic, condemned the bill for failing to provide relief for Dreamers and making it more difficult for migrants to be granted asylum. He lamented that not a single 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, the president and chief executive of Global Refuge, calling the bill an abandonment of “our legal and moral obligations to people seeking refuge.”