A major bipartisan border deal and foreign aid package appears on track for defeat in the Senate this weekend, a day after it was released amid relentless attacks from former President Donald Trump and top House Republicans.
Republicans who oppose the deal, including Trump, have attacked it as too weak, even though it would represent a drastic overhaul of immigration law and give the president long-term powers to crack down on illegal immigrants at the southern border. The stark contradictions facing the bill put aid to Ukraine and Israel, two key U.S. allies, at risk, and it's unclear whether Congress can pass foreign aid alone. Speaker Mike Johnson has already said the border deal will die once it reaches the House.
Only 41 senators need to vote against the bill in Wednesday's procedural vote to sink the deal, and 23 senators have already publicly indicated they oppose it.
“I think planning is dead,” said Sen. Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi, when asked about his position on the border bill after a meeting in Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's office on Monday.
McConnell, who helped negotiate the package, told GOP senators they should vote anyway when the Senate holds a key procedural vote on Wednesday, according to a Republican source. Several GOP senators said Wednesday was too early and needed more time to review the complex package released Sunday night. McConnell therefore suggested that senators should be reluctant to vote against the measure.
The top GOP negotiator for the deal, Sen. James Lankford told reporters Monday night that he doesn't believe the package has enough support to move forward on Wednesday.
The Oklahoma Republican would not say whether he would vote to advance the bill Wednesday, noting that if he voted “no,” it would give members more time to read the bill and raise any issues with it. Can eventually pass.
“I'm undecided on my own bill. I think it's a good thing if we can,” he said. Trying to force this now will not move and become law.
In addition to border security provisions, the $118.2 billion legislative package will provide aid to key U.S. allies abroad, including billions of dollars to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia and security aid to Israel, as well as humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza. , the West Bank and Ukraine.
Johnson announced on Saturday that the House would vote this week on a comprehensive bill to provide aid to Israel, pressuring senators to abandon efforts to link aid to Israel with other issues.
But President Joe Biden will veto a full aid package for Israel, the White House said Monday.
“The administration worked for months with a bipartisan group of senators to reach a national security agreement that protects the border and provides support to the people of Ukraine and Israel, while also providing much-needed humanitarian assistance to civilians affected by conflict around the world,” the White House wrote in a statement. Instead of acting in good faith, this bill is yet another cynical political ploy.”
The border deal was the result of months of bipartisan negotiations with Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, Sen. Kirsten Sinema, an independent from Arizona, and Lankford, one of the chamber's most conservative Republicans.
So far, 20 Republican senators have publicly criticized the bill, including Montana Sen. Steve Daines, a member of the Senate GOP leadership. Texas Senate. John Cornyn, a prominent senior Republican, has also said he has serious concerns about the package.
A majority of Senate Republicans are now leaning against the bill or are actively planning to vote “no” during the first practical vote on the package.
“People are still reviewing and digesting the text. Based on the input we get from our members, we'll figure out from there what the path forward is,” Senate Republican Whip John Thune said Monday.
As for his personal stance on the bill, Thune said he was undecided.
“I'm like everyone else. I review the text. I think James Lankford worked as hard as he could and got the best deal he could under the circumstances. This is something our conference wanted to do,” he said. “We'll see where it goes.”
He acknowledged that House GOP leaders, who said the bill was dead on arrival, had “difficult” things in the Senate.
South Dakota's Republican Senate. Mike Rounds said Wednesday he would vote to pass the border deal. But he also argued that bipartisan Senate leaders should come to an agreement, so senators have more time to thoroughly scrutinize and evaluate the border deal. They will then set up a floor debate, which will allow them to vote on amendments to make changes to the bill.
He said the approach could allow funds to go to Ukraine and Israel — something he supports — and deal with a border deal in more than the three days Schumer allows.
“I think it is fair to have time to debate the bill and amend the bill,” he said. “There's still work to be done.”
Two Democratic senators have publicly attacked the bill — New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and California Sen. Alex Padilla.
Menendez called the deal “unacceptable” in a statement Sunday evening, adding, “Accepting this deal as written would be a complete betrayal of the communities we swore to protect and represent. Democrats will be outraged if these changes are considered under Trump, but Latinos and immigrants will be outraged because we want to win elections.” Now they find themselves on the altar of sacrifice.
Padilla said in a statement that it “misses the mark” and that it will “cause more chaos at the border, not less” and that it “fails to provide relief to Dreamers, farm workers and other undocumented long-term residents. Our country contributes billions to our economy, providing jobs in essential jobs. Doing so strengthens America.
Padilla pointed out on Monday that there are more Democrats than people know who will oppose the bill, making it even harder for the bill to get 60 votes on Wednesday.
And Vermont's independent Sen. Bernie Sanders indicated his opposition to funding for Israel in a statement on Sunday, saying the United States “cannot continue to fund Netanyahu's horrific war against the Palestinian people,” referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Supporters of the deal have pushed back at criticisms, which they argued misrepresented what the bill would do.
Lankford, a top GOP negotiator, said Sunday he was “confused” by criticism from Johnson, who declared the deal Lankford cut with Democrats was “worse than we expected.”
“I'm a little confused that building the border wall, expanding deportation flights, ICE officials, Border Patrol agents, expanding checkpoints is worse than expected. How it creates a faster process for deportation. How it addresses long-standing problems and loopholes in the asylum process that stop chaos at the border. So I'm a bit confused. I need to contact the speaker's team to find out what is 'worse than expected' based on the actual text. Hopefully they've had a chance to actually read that text,” Lankford told reporters on a conference call.
Ahead of a key test vote on Wednesday, he said he would have “candid” conversations with GOP senators this week about their concerns about the bill, adding that he believes there are “misconceptions” about how the bill works.
This story and topic have been updated with additional improvements.
CNN's Manu Raju, Christine Wilson and Nikki Carvajal contributed to this report.
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