Key border deal negotiator says bipartisan agreement has been reached, could be ready in the coming days

Sen. Chris Murphy, a key negotiator on a possible border deal, said Sunday that text of a compromise could be ready to go to the Senate floor in the coming days.

“We do have a bipartisan deal. We’re finishing the text right now,” Murphy told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union,” adding that the question remains whether Republicans are going to listen to former President Donald Trump, who has tried to tank the compromise.

“We are sort of finalizing the last pieces of text right now. This bill could be ready to be on the floor of the United States Senate next week. But it won’t be if Republicans decide that they want to keep this issue unsettled for political purposes,” the Connecticut Democrat added.

Murphy said he was pleased to see President Joe Biden support the emerging deal. Biden cited the compromise at a campaign rally Saturday, saying he would shut down the US southern border if given the authority – an embrace of policies far more draconian than those he’s previously considered.

“I was glad to hear the president come out and speak forcefully in favor of this bill. I’m hopeful that we will still have enough Republicans in the Senate who want to fix the problem at the border rather than just to do Donald Trump’s bidding, but we will see over the next 24 to 48 hours whether that’s true,” Murphy said.

Sen. Chris Murphy speaks to media at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 9, 2024. - Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/AP
Sen. Chris Murphy speaks to media at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 9, 2024. - Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/AP

Components of the deal include a new authority that allows the president to shut down the border between ports of entry when unlawful crossings reach high levels, reforming the asylum system to resolve cases in a shorter timeframe, and expediting work permits.

Under the proposed deal, the Department of Homeland Security would be granted new emergency authority to shut down the border if daily average migrants crossing unlawfully reach 4,000 over a one-week span. Certain migrants would be allowed to stay if they proved to be fleeing torture or persecution in their countries.

It’s impossible to close the border to asylum seekers because of current law, despite multiple attempts by Trump to do so while he was in office.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also endorsed the deal Sunday.

“This legislation is a compromise; it’s a negotiation, and that’s what we’re here to do,” the California Democrat told Bash on “State of the Union.”

Comprehensive immigration reform, Pelosi noted, is “not likely with the Congress that we have right now, so we have to move forward.”

Though the text is still unreleased, the authority is reminiscent of a Covid-era border restriction invoked by Trump in 2020 that allowed authorities to turn migrants away at the border. It resulted in more repeat border crossers and still placed a strain on the immigration system.

House Speaker Mike Johnson warned in a letter last week that the emerging border deal is “dead on arrival” in his chamber if it resembles anything close to what has been reported. His interpretation of the proposal, however, is false, according to a source familiar with the deal.

Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, said Biden should “demonstrate his good faith by taking immediate actions to secure it. He should sign an order right now to end the mass release of illegals and dangerous persons into our country.”

Murphy pushed back, saying, “All of a sudden, they are against border and immigration reform because they are afraid it’s actually going to pass, and many Republicans in the House and some in the Senate actually have no plans to help the president control the border because they want to keep the border in a chaotic situation for political purposes.”

Murphy underscored that the stakes of this deal – which is tied to funding for Ukraine as it fights Russia’s invasion – are high.

“The consequence of failure here is not just that we keep immigration as an open issue available for Donald Trump to exploit in the next election. It is also that Ukraine loses this war, and that Russia marches its army to the edge of Europe – that would be catastrophic for the United States and for the world,” he said.

Still, Murphy maintained he’s confident enough Republicans would support a deal despite internal GOP divisions and Trump’s efforts to squash a potential win for Biden.

Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, another key border security negotiator, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday there is no vote count on the deal yet. However, he said he feels “positive about it because even the initial feedback has been good.”

As for Trump’s attempts to stop the deal, Lankford said that there is a lot of misinformation about the content of the bill and that he is “looking forward” to Trump having the opportunity to read it once there is a text.

Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida said Sunday he believes the bill needs to be tied to another measure for Biden to comply with it. Scott said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has not been supportive of including an accountability measure or tying the bill to another form of aid.

“Unless there’s some accountability measure that forces Biden to secure the border, tied to Ukraine aid, tied to something else, unless there’s something like that, Biden’s not going to comply with the law,” Scott said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Illustrating the divisiveness swirling around the Biden administration’s border policies as the Senate looks to pass a deal, House Republicans on Sunday released two articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who they say committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” for his “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law” and for breaching the public’s trust.

Mayorkas has pushed back against the criticism, and officials who work closely with him say he intends to remain in the post.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Manu Raju, Lauren Fox, Casey Gannon, Avery Lotz and Aileen Graef contributed to this report.

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