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Monday, February 26, 2024

Schumer ‘hopeful’ Senate will pass bipartisan border bill despite opposition from GOP hard-liners

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday expressed optimism over a bipartisan bill that seeks to impose stricter immigration and asylum laws, saying he believes it will pass the chamber despite opposition from hard-right Republicans.

“I’m confident — hopeful is the right word,” Schumer said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” when asked about the bill’s chances of passing in the Senate. “This is hard. And our Republican senators — we need a bunch of them — are under a lot of pressure from right-wing Trump part of the party.”

Senators released the text of the bipartisan bill Sunday night after months of negotiations. The $118 billion bill comes amid record-high crossings at the southern border and also includes foreign aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan. Republicans have said they would only support aid to those countries on the condition that it is paired with new policies restricting U.S. immigration.

The bipartisan package faces opposition from House Republican leadership and other conservatives, including several members of the House Freedom Caucus. Shortly after senators released the text of the bill, Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., said in a Sunday night post to X that “it will be dead on arrival” if it reaches the House.

Schumer said the bill is a “compromise,” adding that is “the only way you get important things done” in the Senate. He blamed pressure from former President Trump and his allies for the hard-right Republicans’ opposition to the legislation.

“Will the senators drown out the political noise from Trump and his minions and do the right thing for America?” he asked. “It’s a crucial question. History will is looking down on every one of us right now.”

Asked what happens next if the bill passes through the Senate, Schumer listed groups within the House that he argued the bill would appeal to.

“First is a big group of hawks in the middle, and they care about funding Ukraine — they always have — and the strategy of Johnson is right now do nothing,” he said. “There’s a large number of pro-Israel people — they care about that. Then there’s a large number of progressive legislators, I’m included, who want to see that Gaza, the people in Gaza, don’t starve and we get that aid to them.”

“Plus, there are some who care about Taiwan, and there’s money there to bolster us against China’s aggression there,” he added. “You know, we’re in an aggressive world and we got a lot of dictators linking up — Russia, China, Iran. If we don’t defend ourselves, we don’t want this to be like 1938.”

Schumer predicted that Johnson will eventually face “huge pressure from within his caucus” to pass the bill if it gets through the Senate.

“Well, he’s saying that now because he hopes his nightmare is we pass it in the Senate,” Schumer said about Johnson’s opposition. “So he’s doing everything he can to thwart us passing it in the Senate. But once we pass it in the Senate, God willing, I think there’ll be huge pressure from within his caucus and without to get this done.”

“If he put this bill on the floor of this House right now, it would pass,” Schumer said. “We’d get a lot of Democratic votes, and we get some good number of Republican votes.”

In a joint statement Monday, the top four House Republican leaders — Johnson, Majority Leader Steve Scalise, whip Tom Emmer and chairwoman Elise Stefanik — said they oppose the bipartisan border bill “because it fails in every policy area needed to secure our border and would actually incentivize more illegal immigration.”

They cited the proposed expansion of work authorizations without also including “critical asylum reforms,” what they said were loopholes in the border shutdown authority that would give Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas “too much discretionary authority,” insufficient limitations on Biden’s parole authority, and the use of taxpayer funds to house migrants in hotels through a FEMA program that provides them with shelter and services

“Any consideration of this Senate bill in its current form is a waste of time,” they wrote. “It is DEAD on arrival in the House. We encourage the U.S. Senate to reject it.”

Before the Senate released the border bill text, Johnson announced Saturday that the House will vote this week on a standalone bill to provide aid to Israel. He defended his move during an interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” denying that he had proposed the standalone aid package as an attempt to kill the compromise deal in the Senate.

“No, we’ve made very clear what the requirements of the House were, and that is to solve the problem at the border,” he said, adding that the House has been “awaiting” action from the Senate.

Johnson also denied that Trump, who opposes the Senate’s immigration deal, influenced his decision to push an Israel bill.

“Of course not, he’s not calling those shots,” Johnson said. “I am calling the shots for the House, that’s our responsibility. And I have been saying this far longer than President Trump has.”

In a Monday morning post to Truth Social, Trump urged Republicans to vote against the border bill, which he slammed as “horrendous,” and called for a separate bill that does not link to foreign aid.

“Only a fool, or a Radical Left Democrat, would vote for this horrendous Border Bill, which only gives Shutdown Authority after 5000 Encounters a day, when we already have the right to CLOSE THE BORDER NOW, which must be done,” he wrote. “This Bill is a great gift to the Democrats, and a Death Wish for The Republican Party. It takes the HORRIBLE JOB the Democrats have done on Immigration and the Border, absolves them, and puts it all squarely on the shoulders of Republicans. Don’t be STUPID!!!”

Top Senate Republicans have also begun stating their rejection of the bill.

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., a member of Senate GOP leadership as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, came out against the bill, saying he can’t support the provisions on the border.

“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. I’m a no,” he wrote in a post to X.

Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah also panned the bill and urged their colleagues to vote against it.

“This … is … INSANE,” Cruz wrote in a Sunday night post to X. “On Schumer’s Open-Borders Legislation, Republicans shouldn’t just vote no … but HELL NO.”

In a Sunday night post to X, Lee wrote that the bipartisan border bill is “even worse than we thought.”

“No one who cares about our border security should support it,” Lee wrote. “It is a betrayal of the American people.”

Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tx., a former Republican whip, have not commented publicly on the bill.



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