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Biden’s Border, Ukraine Deal DOA in the House – So What’s Plan B?

A tale of two doomed border bills.

by | Jan 27, 2024 | Articles, Good Reads, Opinion, Politics

The ghost of a deal in the Senate to address both border security and Ukraine aid in the same bill may have been exorcised thanks to House Republican leadership. The supposed arrangement has no formal legislative text yet, and the exact details have not been made public – if, indeed, they have even been decided. Despite the lack of information, though, leaks abound – and former President Trump has been outspoken against it. But it was House Speaker Mike Johnson and Majority Leader Steve Scalise, both Louisiana Republicans, who may have actually killed the deal by saying that, if the information is true, the bill is dead on arrival in the lower chamber.

The Big Reveal

New Banner Border Crisis“I wanted to provide a brief update regarding the supplemental and the border, since the Senate appears unable to reach any agreement,” Johnson wrote Friday, January 26, in a letter to his colleagues. “If rumors about the contents of the draft proposal are true, it would have been dead on arrival in the House anyway.” A day earlier, Brett Horton, chief of staff for Rep. Steve Scalise, told the Senate “this border bill, if you send it to us, is dead on arrival.”

But some of the reports circulating conservative media aren’t reliable, according to Senator James Lankford (R-OK), who urged his colleagues not to make a final decision until they’ve seen the text of the bill. By Friday evening, the Senate was reportedly on the verge of coming to an agreement, and President Joe Biden endorsed it whole heartedly.

The latest reports from the upper chamber indicate a deal has been reached and is expected to be revealed sometime next week, and Senate leadership intends to bring it to a vote, regardless of whether it’ll pass the House. CNN, the only outlet to report this so far, says the Senate has agreed to grant the Department of Homeland Security power to shut down the border if migrant crossings hit 4,000 over a one-week span, citing “sources familiar with the matter.” Should crossings hit 5,000 in a day, DHS would be legally required by this bill to completely lock down the border.

But this bill to tighten border security is balanced by a demand that asylum cases, which have been known to take up to a decade, be handled within six months. Some speculate that, should Speaker Johnson take any bipartisan Senate deal on the issue to a House vote, he may face a motion to vacate, as did his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy.

Ukraine and the Border – DOA Wherever They Go

The House passed its own border security bill last year, the Secure the Border Act. According to Johnson, this contained “the core legislative reforms that are necessary to actually compel the Biden Administration to resolve the border catastrophe.” But that bill – which includes restarting border wall construction and the Remain in Mexico policy – has already been declared dead on arrival in the Senate, just as this upper chamber agreement has been in the House.

With two competing border bills, neither of which stand much chance if any of passing the full Congress, lawmakers are looking for other options. One Republican aide from the Senate said that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is looking for an “off-ramp” to separating Ukraine funding from border security – but that brings us full circle to the initial issue: Republicans said they won’t approve more funding for the war in Ukraine unless it comes with increased security at our own southern border.

So, where do we go from here – are border security and funding for foreign wars both locked into a legislative logjam, doomed to progress no farther? So far, it seems they may be. The minority’s whip, Sen. John Thune (R-SD), told reporters Thursday that, while the leaders still hope to pass Ukraine funding and border reforms in the same package, they also realize they may have to switch to a “Plan B.” When asked what Plan B would be, however, Thune’s only answer was, “hold that thought.”

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