Senate Republicans, under heavy pressure from former President Trump, will block a procedural motion to begin debate on a bipartisan border security deal this week, leaving funding for the war in Ukraine in limbo for the foreseeable future.
A failure to advance the border security deal this week would signal the legislation is unlikely to pass the Senate all without major changes. And any revisions to asylum and border security reforms negotiated with the White House and Senate Democrats could scuttle the whole deal.
Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.), whose staff has briefed Republican senators and their offices on the details of the sweeping border security package, said Tuesday that a motion to end debate on proceeding to the bill won’t get much if any Republican support.
Asked Tuesday morning if any Senate Republicans will vote to proceed to the bill, Thune said it’s “unlikely” because members of his conference want more time to study the complicated package.
“I think it’s unlikely because I just think our members are still — they want more time to evaluate it,” he said when asked about the prospect of any GOP senators voting to proceed.
He said that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) decision to schedule a vote Wednesday to allow the bill to proceed is “rushing it.”
Even Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), the lead Republican negotiator, who has worked on the border security package over the past four months, said Monday evening he doesn’t know whether he will vote to proceed to the bill Wednesday.
Schumer filed a cloture motion on Monday setting up a mid-week vote on ending dilatory debate on the motion to proceed to the bill.
But the Democratic leader on Tuesday acknowledged the bill won’t move forward this week, calling the Senate outlook “gloomy.”
“After months of good faith negotiations, after months of giving Republicans many of the things they asked for, Leader McConnell and the Republican conference are ready to kill the national security supplemental package, even with the border provisions they so fervently demanded,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.
Schumer said he would be willing to delay the first procedural vote on the package until Thursday but expressed doubt that would make any difference in getting enough votes to begin debate and amend it.
“We’ll even offer to delay that vote until some time Thursday to give even more time for senators to make up their minds. But I suspect they won’t accept even that offer because they really don’t want more time. They’re just using it as an excuse,” he said.
Some Republicans who plan to vote against advancing the bill say that doesn’t mean they necessarily oppose the substance of the legislation.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a leading Republican voice on immigration and national security issues, said Monday that he looked “forward to the amendment process to try to improve the bill.”
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), an important Republican swing vote, has proposed delaying votes on the border security and foreign aid package beyond this week so that senators would have more time to debate and vote on amendments.
He said he would vote “no” on moving to the bill Wednesday.
“I think the amendment process is very important. Me personally, I like what’s in it for defense. And I think a number of items for the border would definitely improve the border situation. The question is whether we can get enough concessions to actually close the border. We really want to do that,” he said. “You’re not going to get it done in three days …. Personally, I would vote no on cloture right now but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t continue to work on the bill itself.”
The Senate is scheduled to take a two-week recess beginning on Saturday, which means if that if Republicans block the border security and Ukraine funding package this week, they won’t have a chance to return to the bill until the week of Feb. 26.
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Author: Alexander Bolton