Senate Republicans mobilize to block border bill: ‘This will not pass’

Senate Republicans are poised to obstruct the much-anticipated bipartisan border package released Sunday by negotiators, which includes heightened asylum restrictions and gives President Biden the authority to suspend the bill on an emergency basis.

By Monday night, the bill appeared to be in flames as Republicans argued in a closed-door leadership meeting that they don’t have enough time to look over the text and offer amendments. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., already teed up a cloture vote on the package for Wednesday. It will need 60 votes, or three-fifths of the upper chamber, to pass. If it fails, it will take another 60 votes to restart consideration.

Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., a member of the appropriations committee, told Fox News Digital in an interview Tuesday morning that “this will not pass” and predicted there would be 40 “no” votes in the chamber. So far, 25 senators – more than half of the votes needed to filibuster it – have already vowed they would vote against the cloture motion, including three Democrats.

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“In 2023, Secretary Mayorkas is assuring us that there is no crisis, that the border is secure. And suddenly, you come into an election year, they say there’s a crisis,” Hagerty said. “They put forward this legislation, ask for more authority, more funds, and frankly, more flexibility – and they say if we don’t go for it, Republicans are now responsible for the crisis at the southern border. It’s preposterous.”

Hagerty said “the way forward” if the bill fails is for the Senate to take up the House’s H.R.2 – the GOP-led bill that would restore most Trump-era and Title 42 style expulsions – which Schumer has already called a “nonstarter.”

“Everyone agrees the border is a mess. For years, years, our Republican colleagues have demanded we fix the border. And all along, they said it should be done through legislation. Only recently did they change that when it looked like we might actually produce legislation,” Schumer said on the floor Monday. “Well, we are producing legislation in a bipartisan way. And now, unfortunately, many on the hard right are running, are turning their back on this package.” 

Lead Republican negotiator, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., also indicated he is considering voting against the package even though he supports it, which House Republicans have already vowed to tank.

“It’s determining if everybody had enough time to look at this,” Lankford told reporters Monday night. “Why would we force a vote on something that would kill it, to be able to force the vote now, versus give it more time and give the opportunity to be able to go through it?”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., “has read the conference” and may also vote against the cloture, Hagerty said. McConnell and Republican leaders are expected to give a press conference Tuesday afternoon after their policy lunches, where debate on the bill is expected to continue.

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“We had a great discussion,” McConnell told Fox News Monday night. “We’ll continue discussing.”

Leaving the meeting Monday night, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., told reporters “it’s the sense of the room” that Senate Republicans will not vote for cloture to advance the border bill on Wednesday. He added the bill may not be “dead” but wants a full legislative process to offer amendments.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Fox News “there’s a lot of things” he likes about the bill, but “there are things that must change for it to be the bill that we want it to be.”

“I’m going to put together some ideas I have to make the bill better and insist that we take them up. So that’s where I’m at,” he said.

The package – negotiated by Lankford, Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., with Biden administration officials – also drew criticism from Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo., on Tuesday.

“The proposed legislation does not meet most Americans’ standard of securing our border now,” he said in a statement. “It doesn’t force the Biden administration to end its abuse of current law. It leaves in place a number of the Democrat-created incentives that are fueling the crisis.”

Meanwhile, Democrat Sen. Alex Padilla, of California, who also plans to vote against cloture, argues the bill goes too far to the right, dubbing the bill a “failed Trump-era immigration policy.”

“After months of a negotiating process that lacked transparency or the involvement of a single border-state Democrat or member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, it is no surprise that this border deal misses the mark,” he said in a statement. “The deal includes a new version of a failed Trump-era immigration policy that will cause more chaos at the border, not less. It is in conflict with our international treaties and obligations to provide people with the opportunity to seek asylum. It fails to address the root causes of migration. And it fails to provide relief for Dreamers, farm workers, and the other undocumented long-term residents of our country who contribute billions to our economy, work in essential jobs, and make America stronger.”

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The proposed 370-page legislation, released Sunday evening after months of negotiations, will total just over $118 billion, with 50,000 new visas. Biden’s original request amounted to around $106 billion last October.

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The emergency border proposal, appended to the national security supplemental package, is aimed at gaining control of an overrun asylum system that has been overwhelmed by historic numbers of migrants illegally crossing the border. The bill proposes an overhaul to the system with tougher and quicker enforcement.

The bill’s provisions come into effect when there is an average of 5,000 or more daily encounters with illegal immigrants over a seven-day period or, alternatively, when a combined total of 8,500 or more aliens are encountered on any single calendar day. The calculation considers encounters at southwest land border ports, ports along southern coastal borders, and at a southwest land border port of entry.

However, the bill states that if the president “finds that it is in the national interest to temporarily suspend the border emergency authority, the President may direct the Secretary to suspend use of the border emergency authority on an emergency basis.” Essentially, the “border emergency” triggered at 5,000 crossings per day within a week can be overturned by Biden.

Fox News’ Aishah Hasnie contributed to this report.