Why did Senate Republicans tank the border bill?

After an epic battle within the party, the "bipartisan" border bill was shot down.

A stillborn bill. That is perhaps the best description for the "bipartisan" border bill that was rejected today in the Senate by a vote of 49-50. 60 votes were needed for the bill to pass but it fell short. The vast majority of Republicans voted against it. Several senators reported that conversations within the Republican Party over the last few days have ended in shouting matches. Senator Ted Cruz said this vote is the result of an epic battle between Senate Republicans.

The bill was going to allocate $60 billion for Ukraine and only $20 billion to secure the southern border. Of the money allocated to the border, $1.4 billion would go toward helping immigrants settle, including travel and lodging. $2.3 billion would go to sanctuary cities.

This bill was born from a union between the two leaders of the Senate, Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Chuck Schumer, who wanted to approve funding for Ukraine at all costs. The bill was classified as bipartisan because it included some Republicans. However, the majority of the party's senators received access to the document just a couple of days ago.

President Joe Biden, the White House and Senator Chuck Schumer have been desperately seeking money for Ukraine and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell joined the effort but Republicans told them they would only approve the money for Ukraine if the southern border was secured first. The issue is clear, most Republicans do not want to fund security in Ukraine before funding security in the United States and solving the problems plaguing the southern border. Senate Republicans used the White House's desperation to approve money for Ukraine to try to push for change on the southern border.

However, once the bill was sent out last Sunday night, the majority of Republicans, both in the Senate and the House, concluded that the bill does not solve the crisis at the border. The fundamental reason they voted against it is that the bill does not solve the problem, and for some, it makes the situation even worse. 

The problems with the bill

The bill outlines that if the border has 5,000 encounters per day for seven days in a row or if there are 8,500 encounters in a single day, the Department of Homeland Security would be obliged to close the border, rejecting all crossings and new asylum applications. Anyone who crosses the border would be sent back. Migrants won't be guaranteed to be able to apply for asylum just for arriving on U.S. soil.

For many Republican senators, this is not a limit that solves the problem, but on the contrary means normalizing the entry of 5,000 illegal immigrants per day, which works out to be 1.8 million migrants per year. The fear is that if the bill passed, the country would have to deal with 5,000 migrants a day forever because that would be the number that would become the new normal. The figure would even be higher because the limit of 5,000 does not include unaccompanied children, which would also constitute an incentive for more unaccompanied children to be sent illegally.

The other serious problem that Republicans have pointed out is that although the bill establishes that the border be closed if 5,000 migrants cross per day, it also says that it gives the president the power to reopen the border at any time "if it is in the national interest to temporarily suspend the border emergency." Therefore, the bill establishes a limit, but in any case, it leaves the final decision up to the president. In that sense, many Republicans wonder why President Biden would comply with the limit of 5,000 daily encounters when for years he has not shown any interest in effectively stopping illegal migration.

The bill also establishes stricter requirements for seeking asylum and a higher credible fear standard. Furthermore, it suggests that from now on asylum seekers will have the interview in the days following their arrival and that the decision on the case will have to be issued within a period of months and not years, as is currently the case. Republicans agree, but not enough for it to be considered a good bill. For many, there is no point in tightening the asylum application requirements, if in any case, 5,000 people are going to be allowed into the country each day.

In general, the main reason why Republican senators voted against it is because they believe that the bill will not solve the border crisis. Senator Cruz stated that the bill is a "Democratic wish list" that "allows 1.8 million illegal aliens annually into America."

They have also pointed out that they don't even need to pass new laws to secure the border. Donald Trump left office with record-low immigration numbers and he didn't have to pass a bill through Congress, so the main problem is the current administration's lack of interest. "Biden could fix this right now," said Sen. Rick Scott.

The political issue: Republicans have given Democrats a great gift

Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senators who supported the project have managed to give Democrats reasons to say that they do want to secure the border but that the extreme MAGA Republicans did not allow it by rejecting a bill that even had the support of their leader in the Senate.

From now until the elections, every Democrat will blame Republicans for the crisis at the border. The fact that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has pushed the bill with such zeal is a tremendous political mistake that will surely cost Republicans greatly. 

The reality is that the Democrats were not going to pass any bill to effectively secure the border, and Senator McConnell, in his eagerness to secure money for Ukraine, commissioned Republican Senator James Lankford with a bill that would be approved by the Democrats. This resulted in negotiations that were rejected by the majority of Republicans as soon as the details became known.

On Tuesday afternoon, President Joe Biden gave an unexpected speech about the bill. He assured that the funding that he has repeatedly requested to secure the border will finally be provided. He pointed out that new staff will be hired with the funds from the bill that, if approved, would give him temporary authority to close the border at a time when there are more than 5,000 daily encounters. He also said that it was essential to approve aid to Ukraine.

The president later went on to talk about the political issue, stating that for years Republicans have said that they want security on the border and that this is the opportunity to achieve it. "Now they have the strongest border bill this country has ever seen."

Finally, he said that if the project was not approved "Every day between now and November, the American people are going to know that the only reason the border is not secure is Donald Trump." This angered Republicans, who are constantly reminding the country that when Biden took office, the country's immigration numbers were at a historic low. Within the first few weeks in power, he undid the harsh immigration policies that the Trump administration had imposed on illegal immigration.

Because of McConnell's enormous political mistake, all Democrats, including President Biden who even took the time to give a speech, will blame Trump and his extreme congressmen. Biden will claim on the campaign trail that Trump is to blame for the disaster at the border.