Dem 51
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GOP 49
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The Battle Over the Border Bill Has Begun, But May Already Be Over

In theory, Wednesday will see a procedural vote on the border bill that was hammered out by Sens. James Lankford (R-OK), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) and announced over the weekend. But don't count your chickens quite yet, since Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) may choose not to move forward if he thinks he's just going to end up with egg on his face.

There are some very important players who have come out in favor of the bill. Joe Biden is among them; he issued a statement yesterday that reads, in part: "Now we've reached an agreement on a bipartisan national security deal that includes the toughest and fairest set of border reforms in decades. I strongly support it." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also threw his weight behind it, declaring:

The national security legislation we're preparing to take up will invest heavily in the capabilities and capacity America and our allies need to regain the upper hand over this emerging axis of authoritarians. Make no mistake: the gauntlet has been thrown. And America needs to pick it up.

Also backing the deal is the union that represents border patrol agents. This is being treated as a "big deal" because the union twice endorsed Donald Trump for president. But really, c'mon. Of course they are going to back a deal that means $20 billion in new spending, primarily on border patrol agents.

And now, the opponents of the bill, of which there are only two worth noting. First, on the blue side, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) is very unhappy about the bill, in part because it too fully reflects conservative priorities, and in part because all three senators who negotiated the bill are white (and, therefore, not members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus). Undoubtedly, Schumer tapped Murphy because the Senator is a veteran negotiator, a close ally, and is chair of the Senate's Subcommittee on Homeland Security. However, it might have made things more palatable if Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) had been a part of the team, since he is Latino and is from a border state. In any event, presumably the votes of some CHC members will not be gettable. This is also going to make some of the other Democrats, particularly those who are liberal and/or people of color, reluctant.

And on the red side, the key opponent, of course, is Donald Trump, who spent Monday raging about the bill. On "Truth" Social, he decreed: "Only a fool, or a Radical Left Democrat, would vote for this horrendous Border Bill" (note that we would put [sic]s in there to indicate all the grammar errors, but then it would be unreadable). Trump also promised to "fight the bill all the way." And, most significantly, appearing on a right-wing radio show, he said of Lankford: "I think this is a very bad bill for his career." There is no Republican in the Senate or the House who missed the threat implied by that last comment, and so yesterday GOP members were coming out of the woodwork to slam the bill.

With all of this said, Lankford did a masterful job in negotiations. He knew well that Democrats really want money for the various foreign situations, and they really want to defang the immigration issue as best they possibly can, so he extracted more concessions than would be possible at practically any other time. It's going to be tough for Republican members to walk away from that, knowing that even if Trump becomes president again, they're not going to get a better bill (or, likely, any bill). It is also the case that many of them want the money for Ukraine and/or Israel, and this may be the last chance to get it.

From the Democratic side, meanwhile, it remains the case that they really want the foreign money and they really want to say "Hey! We did something on immigration!" heading into the 2024 cycle. Further, while the CHC is opposed as an entity, not all Latino and Latina members are upset. In particular, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), who just so happens to be running for the U.S. Senate in a border state, has come out strongly in favor. So, maybe the majority of Democrats who have reservations will, in the end, swallow hard and vote "yea."

All of this is to say that if you had to bet, you should bet the bill won't make it past the Senate. But, it could. And if it does, then House Republicans will face a real day of reckoning. (Z)

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