After months of secret, closed-door negotiations, Senate leaders will unveil the long-delayed bipartisan border security and foreign aid package as soon as today. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is expected to tee up a procedural vote for Wednesday, meaning the long-awaited moment of truth is almost here.
By the early part of next week, we should have a pretty good sense of whether this bill — and the tens of billions of dollars in aid for Ukraine and Israel that will ride alongside it — is going to pass the Senate. Some would argue it’s already dead. Vocal opposition from Speaker Mike Johnson and former President Donald Trump may have scared off enough GOP senators from backing it. And even if it clears the Senate, Johnson has suggested that the House won’t touch it.
But there are several factors you’ll need to consider heading into the weekend and Monday evening, when senators are back in Washington for the first time since the text’s expected release.
Can Republican leaders overcome Johnson’s — and Trump’s — opposition? Johnson has been savaging the Senate bill ahead of its official release, relying mostly on what proponents say are “internet rumors” and “misinformation” to kill the measure before it can even get to his chamber. Trump has similarly dismissed the effort.
We don’t expect Johnson and conservative hardliners to suddenly embrace the package. What matters is whether their opposition impacts Senate Republicans who are on the fence about the proposal and the politics surrounding it. Senate Minority Whip John Thune, the GOP’s top vote-counter, suggested several times this week that many of his members will be influenced by both Johnson and Trump.
If Johnson vows to ignore it, some GOP senators will inevitably question whether it’s worth taking a political risk to vote for a bill that’s going nowhere. These Republicans also have to weigh whether they want to be on the opposite side of their party’s likely presidential nominee.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), the lead GOP negotiator, acknowledged Thursday that the opponents aren’t going to change their minds about the bill when they see the text.
“I’m not confident anyone who has been attacking it… will come out and speak to y’all and say, ‘Hey, I was wrong.’ None of those folks are going to look at it and come to the press and apologize,” Lankford said. “They’ll find something different.”
The path to 60: There will be a handful of progressives who oppose the bill due to the border security and immigration policy changes, as well as the lack of conditions on the Israel aid. Then the question becomes whether there are enough Republicans who are willing to get this over the 60-vote hump.
Remember — the goal for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Senate Republicans has been to win support from at least half of the 49-member conference for this proposal. Anything less, they’ve argued, will make it even less likely that Johnson takes it up in the House.
Say you start off with 45 of the 51 Democratic Caucus members in support — and that may be generous. Just 15 GOP senators gets you to 60. But that’s well short of half the Senate Republican Conference.
And conservatives are energized to kill this deal. They’re training their ire on Schumer but also McConnell, who’s been the most vocal advocate for the emerging Senate agreement and for Ukraine aid. Schumer’s timetable would, in theory, comport with the 72-hour review period that many Senate Republicans whose votes are in play have demanded. But that’s not nearly enough for conservatives who are likely to oppose the package.
“Schumer’s timeline is ridiculous as he yet again is trying to ram massive pieces of legislation through with no time for debate,” Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) told us. “Republicans should unite in opposition to these tired and undemocratic tactics.”
— Andrew Desiderio