WASHINGTON ― The ink is barely dry on the bipartisan compromise legislation seeking to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, but many Republicans are already up in arms and vowing to oppose it tooth and nail ahead of a procedural Senate vote this week.
“This is worse than bad negotiation. It’s betrayal. The Senate GOP can still stop it if 41 will stand together,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) wrote Sunday in a post on X, formerly Twitter, urging his Senate colleagues to filibuster it.
“I cannot understand how any Republican would think this was a good idea—or anything other than an unmitigated disaster. WE NEED NEW LEADERSHIP — NOW,” the conservative senator said in another post.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) piled on, calling the proposal “an utter disaster.”
“This…is…INSANE,” he wrote on X.
But it wasn’t just rank-and-file Republican Party senators who were quick to denounce the border deal, which was negotiated by their fellow conservative, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), and praised by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), a member of McConnell’s leadership team, also announced his opposition on Monday.
“I can’t support a bill that doesn’t secure the border, provides taxpayer funded lawyers to illegal immigrants and gives billions to radical open borders groups,” Daines, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said on X.
Meanwhile, in the House, Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) vowed it “will not” receive a vote, while House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) called it “even worse than we expected” and claimed it “won’t come close to ending the border catastrophe the President has created.” Other Republicans falsely claimed it would give “amnesty” to millions of undocumented immigrants, a dirty word on the right.
The legislation includes several big conservative wins, including provisions that would allow the government to more easily expel migrants at the border, restrict claims for parole and make it significantly harder for migrants to claim asylum. It would also automatically shutter the border if illegal crossings reach or climb past a certain average daily threshold, with certain humanitarian exemptions.
Lankford called it a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to close our open border and give future administrations the effective tools they need to stop the border chaos and protect our nation.” He also sought to rebut claims from the right that it would allow the unfettered passage of migrants across the border.
But many in the GOP have come out against it anyway, bowing to pressure from former president and 2024 GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump and his allies. Some Republicans have openly admitted they don’t want to give President Joe Biden a victory and keep the issue alive ahead of the November general election. There are even some on the right calling for Lankford to resign from the Senate.
Republicans were the ones who initially demanded concessions from Democrats on tougher border enforcement. The border provisions were supposed to give wary GOP lawmakers political cover to vote for an emergency spending package that includes more aid to Ukraine. Now, with an agreement on the books and Trump driving the reins, Republicans are walking away from two priorities they’ve sought for years: border security in the U.S. and in Ukraine to counter Russian aggression.
Before, Republicans could ostensibly claim they opposed further U.S. assistance to Ukraine without tougher border enforcement. Now, the position of many in the GOP appears to be that they simply oppose aiding Ukraine flat out.
“For five months, my Republican colleagues had demanded, and I think rightfully so, that we address this border crisis as part of a national security package. I agree,” Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Arizona), who helped negotiate the bill, said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” She added that Republicans now “get to make a choice. Do you want to secure the border?”
The survival of the $118 billion national security emergency spending package in the Senate will depend on support from the center of both political parties. Republicans are aiming for a majority of their 49-member conference to support it. But, given the animus on the right, even 10 or 15 GOP votes might prove difficult.
The lift for advocates on getting 60 votes to advance the bill on Wednesday becomes more difficult if a large number of Democrats come out against it. Several progressive and Latino Democrats have criticized the proposal already.
“The deal includes a new version of a failed Trump-era immigration policy that will cause more chaos at the border, not less,” Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) said in a statement on Sunday, adding that it “misses the mark.”
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) called the deal “unacceptable,” noted it failed to provide Dreamers a path to citizenship and criticized Senate leadership for leaving out Latino lawmakers from the negotiations.
“Accepting this deal as written would be an outright betrayal to the communities we have sworn an oath to protect and represent,” Menendez said in a statement. “If these changes were being considered under Trump, Democrats would be in outrage, but because we want to win an election Latinos and immigrants now find themselves on the altar of sacrifice.”