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Houston, We Have a Border Bill

Despite the best efforts of Donald Trump, the Senate has hammered out a bill with significant provisions related to the border, as well as money for the various high-profile allies who need it right now.

The border portion of the bill is mostly as expected. It would allow Joe Biden to "shut down" the border if border crossings by undocumented immigrants averaged 4,000/day for a week, and it would automatically "shut down" the border if border crossings by undocumented immigrants averaged 5,000/day for a week. In this context, "shut down" means that a maximum of 5,000 people per day would be accepted for processing, and they would only be accepted at approved processing centers. Anyone who tried to enter the country at any other entry point, and anyone above 5,000 on a given day, would be immediately expelled. Once a shutdown kicks in, it would remain in effect until border crossings by undocumented immigrants drop below 2,000/day.

By the terms of the bill, the processing centers would be required to process at least 1,400 people per day. What exactly happens with the remaining 3,600 people each day, when another 5,000 arrive the next day, is not clear, but the new legislation would require everyone requesting asylum to be processed in 6 months or less. There is also a new procedure for processing asylum claims without the involvement of an immigration court. In order to facilitate implementation of the bill's terms, an additional $20 billion would be allocated to border enforcement.

Meanwhile, if the bill passes, there will be $62 billion for Ukraine, $14 billion in security aid for Israel, $10 billion in humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip and Ukraine, and about $5 billion to partners in the Indo-Pacific (mostly Taiwan) to combat Chinese aggression. There is also language that will make it much easier for Afghan helpers of the U.S. military to leave that country and resettle in the U.S. Note that if you are a glutton for punishment, and you actually click on the link above and read part of the 370-page bill, it is headlined "HR 815," because the new bill is actually an amendment to HR 815, which is the defense budget for 2023-24.

This week, likely on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will hold a procedural vote on the bill. That will be the first semi-clear indication of whether or not it has the 60 votes to pass the upper chamber. There are some lefty Democrats who will vote "nay," along with at least two dozen Republicans; most of the latter group will be motivated primarily by the desire to kowtow to Donald Trump. Put another way, there appear to be about 70 votes available, and the bill will need 85% of them.

If the bill does pass the Senate, then it will head to the House, where Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has promised it is dead on arrival. That may be true, or it may be the case that like the Man in Black, it's only mostly dead. Johnson has been so insistent on this point that one gets a "he doth protest too much, methinks" kind of feel. One suspects that he is worried there are enough votes in his chamber for passage and for a discharge petition. If that was to come to pass, it would be the worst of both worlds for the Speaker, as he would not get credit for helping address immigration, while at the same time Trump and the Freedom Caucus would be furious.

In short, there's going to be some pretty unappetizing sausage-making going on in the next week or two, and who knows what will come out of the grinder when all is said and done. Keep reading for more. (Z)

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