If the bill fails, senators will proceed to another vote on the national security aid — which also includes billions for IndoPacific allies and $10 billion in humanitarian aid for Gaza, Ukraine and other nations — without the border reforms. That legislation is more likely to pass the first procedural hurdle on Wednesday.
“We just hope they can come to a yes on something,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Wednesday.
The vote caps an unusual week for the Senate, after Republicans who said they would not aid U.S. allies before addressing the influx of migrants at the U.S. border promptly slammed the very deal they demanded hours after it was released. Trump, who has made the border a core campaign issue, criticized and mischaracterized the bill, arguing that only reelecting him president can fix the border, which contributed to its rapid collapse of support. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) also made it clear the bill would not receive a vote in his chamber.
The $118 billion bill includes sweeping changes to the nation’s asylum system and a mechanism to effectively shut down the border to most migrants when crossings are particularly high. It was endorsed by the staunchly conservative union for Border Patrol officers and slammed by refugee rights groups including Amnesty International USA as containing “the most extreme anti-immigrant proposals this country has seen in 100 years.”
But a growing number of Republicans on Capitol Hill painted the legislation as too soft.
Johnson and his leadership team — who initially demanded House-passed border reforms be attached to Ukraine funding — spelled out their grievances in a joint statement, saying the legislation “fails” to secure the border and would encourage more illegal immigration.
“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.”
Trump also slammed the bill’s lead negotiator as he derided the final product.
“This is a very bad bill for his career,” Trump said of Lankford, who is among the conference’s most conservative members, in an interview with radio host Dan Bongino on Monday.
The incident has been embarrassing for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose staff helped negotiate the bill, given just three Senate Republicans publicly supported the deal. McConnell, the longest serving party leader in the Senate, has made backing Ukraine and the U.S. commitment to NATO a core issue. But he has had trouble finding a way to deliver the votes from his conference given the issue’s unpopularity among the base and Johnson’s insistence he would not pass it without strict border reforms attached.
A number of Senate Republicans are headed to the Munich Security Conference next week, where Ukraine’s fate will be top of mind.
“It’s been discussed” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said Tuesday of the idea of voting on the original national security supplemental without border money. “I’ve always believed that Ukraine funding was largely supported in this chamber.”