What the death of America’s border bill says about the toxic politics of congress

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THER LIFE The Senate bill to increase border security in exchange for sending aid to Ukraine was difficult and short-lived. The three main negotiators released the text on Sunday. On Monday he received the support of Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the chamber. By Tuesday he was dead. “It looks to me, and to most of our members, like we don’t really have a chance here to make a law,” admitted Mr. McConnell.

But that’s just because of the petulant actions of these members. The negative reaction from Republicans in both chambers of Congress was overwhelming and swift – as the bill is 370 pages long. Mike Johnson, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, posted on X (formerly Twitter) that the bill would be “dead on arrival” in the lower chamber. That’s despite voter approval: a recent YouGov poll suggests a narrow majority of Americans support the compromise.

Senators used to be more willing to do the hard work of governing than members of the House. They were meant to be adults. In fact, the bill’s chief negotiators were willing to try to craft a bipartisan compromise on an issue as toxic as immigration in an equally toxic political environment as a sort of throwback to a more comfortable time. But that distinction has disappeared as the Republican Party has come under the thumb of Donald Trump, who is more than happy to campaign for border chaos, and wouldn’t turn down the opportunity. keep doing that. “Only an idiot, or a Radical Left Democrat, would vote for this terrible Border Bill,” the former president wrote on his social media platform, Truth Social.

Republican senators quickly collapsed. James Lankford, a senator for Oklahoma who had spent months as a leading Republican negotiating the bill, delivered a challenging message to his party on the Senate floor. “You can do press conferences without the other side,” he said, “but you can’t do law without the other side.”

The bill’s death is a blow to President Joe Biden, who supported it largely because he needs to secure the border to help his election prospects. In a non-election year, the bill’s cap provisions would be a Republican nightmare. It is far more conservative than any attempt at bipartisan immigration reform this century. It would authorize the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the power to shut down the asylum system to those who cross illegally if the number of people trying to cross exceeds a certain level. But there would be limits on how long the emergency power could be used, and the small number of migrants who appear at a port of entry with an appointment would still be processed. The bill would make it more difficult for migrants to pass their preliminary asylum interviews, end parole at the border – a presidential authority that Republicans say the Biden administration has used too liberally – and extension of custody.

The bill contains some carrots for the many Democrats who complain about restricting asylum. It would create a path to residency for Afghans who had helped American forces before their disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. It would expand some legal immigration by offering 50,000 visas in -an additional migrant each year for five years, and protecting the children in the long term. visa holders from deportation. But notably there is no path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, or relief for immigrants brought to America as children.

More than border security is at stake. The $118bn bill included $60bn to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia, $20bn for border enforcement and the immigration system, $14bn for Israel and $10bn to distribute humanitarian aid across Gaza, the West Bank and Ukraine, among others. things. It is not clear now how the president can achieve these goals without the money received by Congress. Mr. Biden can change the immigration system using executive action. But America needs a lot more asylum officers and Border Patrol agents, and that takes a lot of money.

It is also unclear about the ability of the Congress to achieve anything. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is pushing for a foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. It is essentially a border bill without the border provisions. Such a bill might get 60 votes in the Senate, where support for Ukraine among Republicans is stronger than it is in the House.

But one House member can call a vote to remove Mr. Johnson as speaker. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a MAGA congressman from Georgia, has threatened to do so if he moves to fund Ukraine. The rebellion against former speaker Kevin McCarthy last year proves that it is not an empty threat. Even with a speaker, and that is a low bar, the House is flashing. On February 6 Mr Johnson failed to convince his slim majority to impeach Alejandro Mayorkas, the DHS secretary, and help Israel.

The looming election, Mr. Trump’s long shadow and the instability of the House Republican caucus mean that little governing will happen on Capitol Hill this year. The only thing Americans can be sure of is more political theater.

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