Skip to content
Sign up to receive our free weekday morning edition, and you'll never miss a scoop.
Lankford Senate Subway

Hurry up and wait: The Senate and the border

We don’t know the details yet of the bipartisan Senate border security and immigration package. That’s because three senators — Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) — are hashing out the compromise behind closed doors.

The legislation won’t go through the committee of jurisdiction, that’s clear. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin confirmed Monday that the package will go directly to the floor. It’s also expected to take two weeks for the Senate to finish action on whatever agreement the trio of senators, party leaders and the White House reach.

And now it appears that hopes for putting the bill on the Senate floor this week seem to be fading a bit as well.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned Monday afternoon “We remain hopeful, but it’s certainly not a done deal yet. There are a handful of issues that have not yet been agreed to.”

“I would’ve loved to have this done two weeks ago,” Lankford told reporters. “But it’s just the constant ‘One more thing’ to try to get done.”

Senate Minority Whip John Thune, a reliable voice when it comes to what’s happening on the floor, said “No, probably not,” when asked if a deal could come together this week.

This goes back to one of our favorite mantras — everything in the Senate always takes longer than you think. Always — and we mean always — take the over.

There are a few hang-ups worth watching:

The negotiators haven’t resolved their differences over parole policy. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) has pushed senators to adopt a more restrictive approach to asylum seekers who fly directly into the United States.

Senators on the Appropriations Committee are just getting their hands on portions of the deal text to see how much money they must allocate toward border policy changes.

“We’ve received some text from them. Some text from them on a very major issue — asylum — came just this afternoon,” said Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), the top Republican appropriator.

Here’s more from Collins:

“It will definitely be more” than the $14 billion in new border security funding originally requested by the White House back in October, Collins acknowledged, although she couldn’t say how much more.

The politics. Immigration has become the most important issue in the country, even above inflation and the state of the economy, according to a new Harvard CAPS Harris poll. That cuts both ways for each party. President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats could badly use a deal on this issue in order to boost themselves politically. Yet, if the Senate passes a bipartisan agreement and the House doesn’t, what does that mean for Republicans, especially the vanishing House GOP majority?

This week was, in many ways, the perfect opportunity to begin the process of passing Biden’s national security request, which also includes tens of billions of dollars for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. The House is out of session, so senators could do their work without the daily drama from Speaker Mike Johnson’s chamber.

But some senators are freely admitting that the House may not even pass this agreement even if the Senate does.

“I’m positive the Senate can do its job and I’m positive the House will do its job,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. “I’m not sure those are the same thing.”

On top of all that, the New Hampshire presidential primary is today. Once former President Donald Trump takes a step closer to the Republican nomination, he’ll undoubtedly continue to sharply criticize this deal, which could tank its chances for passage. And passage of a deal like this could become even further complicated as the congressional primary season begins in earnest in the next several weeks.

Ukraine funding. Money for Kyiv is still a huge question mark here. In public and private, Senate Republicans who oppose more Ukraine aid caution that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is using the border security package to get Congress to approve more Ukraine aid.

In this take, McConnell and Democrats help push through the Senate a border security bill paired with Ukraine funding. McConnell knows House Republicans will oppose the border security provisions. But it shows congressional support for Ukraine, perhaps enough to overcome House GOP opposition.

Here’s Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to our friend Manu Raju of CNN: “What they want is for the bill to fail in the House so they can go around saying we tried to fix the border, but it was Republicans in the House, those crazy MAGA Republicans who blocked it. That’s what they’re really trying to set up here and use it as a way to get the Ukraine money.”

We heard a similar argument from other Senate Republicans. We’ll note that McConnell has called for more Ukraine funding for months, but he’s also been very clear that it must also be tied to a border security bill.

Senate Republicans and Democrats have their party lunches today. And then there’s a special Senate GOP conference meeting on Wednesday to discuss Ukraine. We’ll see what happens in these two key gatherings.

— Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan

Presented by AARP

AARP knows older voters. 

We’ve made it our business to know what matters to people 50 and over—like we know that protecting Social Security and supporting family caregivers are among their top priorities. Learn more from our polling in Pennsylvania.

Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.