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Senate to vote on border bill as Democrats seek to shift blame to GOP

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The Senate is expected to vote Thursday on a bipartisan border security measure that Republicans blocked earlier this year after former President Donald Trump announced his opposition to it. 

The bill is likely to fail for a second time, but Democrats will try to use Republicans’ resistance to shift public opinion in their favor as polls show voters have been critical of President Biden’s handling of immigration. Border security has been a central theme of the Republican platform heading into the November election. 

“We’ll see who’s serious about actually wanting to fix the border … and those who prefer to merely talk about it,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a floor speech Wednesday. 

Sen. Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, argued that Republicans who vote against the measure “forfeit their right to discuss the border and to turn it into a partisan political issue.” 

“I’m angry because I got texts from my colleagues on the Republican side saying, ‘Look, you guys need to get serious about the border,'” Schatz said during a news conference on Wednesday with a handful of his Democratic colleagues.

“Some of the Republicans that I respect the most were really forceful with us, and so we listened. We developed a piece of legislation that I don’t love, but I know is tough enough to get the job done. Yet they abandoned ship because Donald Trump told them to do so.” 

The border bill

After months of negotiations, Republicans and Democrats reached a compromise in February that would have been the first comprehensive border security policy overhaul in decades. It would have given the president far-reaching powers to restrict unlawful border crossings and tightened asylum rules, among other provisions. 

Republicans had long insisted the measure was necessary for their support of additional aid to Ukraine. But Trump urged his allies to vote against it and it fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance in the Senate. Congress has since approved more aid to Ukraine, with Republican support, as part of a broader foreign aid package. 

On Monday, Mr. Biden spoke to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, and House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, and told them to “stop playing politics and act quickly to pass this bipartisan border legislation,” according to a White House summary of the conversations.

House Republican leadership said earlier Monday the bill was “dead on arrival” in the lower chamber in the unlikely event that it makes it out of the Senate. 

The compromise measure was negotiated by Sen. James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican;  Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat; and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona independent. 

Lankford, one of four Republicans who voted in February to advance the measure, said he will not support it this time, calling it a “prop.”

Let’s keep working until we actually solve this,” he told reporters Wednesday. “Not just bring up things that we know are not going to pass.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, pushed back on criticism that the vote was simply to bolster Democrats’ messaging on the border.

“It is far more than a messaging vote. It will have tangible specific results in border security,” Blumenthal told reporters Wednesday. 

Later in the day, in a floor speech, Blumenthal said Republicans refused to support the measure in February because they wanted to campaign on border issues.

“So for Republican colleagues now [to] claim that politics is the reason we’re here, well, yes — their politics, their presumptive presidential nominee saying that they should not vote for it because of the political advantage they would have from keeping it as an issue,” he said. 

But as Democrats seek to shift the blame to Republicans, they’re also losing support within their own party. In a statement, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey said he will not vote for it because “it includes several provisions that will violate Americans’ shared values” and “misses key components that can go much further in solving the serious immigration problems facing our nation.”

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