Senate Stalemate Continues Over Border Security, House Takes a Stand
FAIR Take | January 2024
As last week came to a close, Senate negotiators failed again to release legislative text for a border security deal to include in the Biden Administration’s foreign aid package. In the Senate, rumors continued to swirl regarding the status of negotiations, as leaked reports indicated that the deal may not contain critical changes to end catch-and-release or fully stop parole abuse, and instead include numerous provisions pushed by open-borders advocates.
While no text was released to the public, Senate negotiators indicated some progress had taken place. Some agreed-upon portions of the deal were sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee, so that the appropriations part of the foreign aid package could be adjusted to fund the policy provisions. Leading Republican negotiator James Lankford (R-Okla.) remained hopeful that the package would be finalized within days.
On Wednesday, however, Republican senators clashed during a closed-door lunch when discussing the border package. Several Senators expressed concern that there would not be sufficient time to analyze the text when finally released. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) sought to rally his colleagues to support a resolution requiring at least three weeks of debate on the border deal before proceeding to a vote. Under Senate rules, Lee’s resolution would need at least 41 senators in support. So far, nine have signed on.
Later Wednesday afternoon, several Republican senators led by Rick Scott (Fla.), held a press conference criticizing the ongoing negotiations. At the press conference, senators focused on damaging provisions reported to be included in the package and the secretive nature of the negotiations. They also pointed out that President Biden and Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Mayorkas have shown no interest in securing the border and have consistently refused to detain illegal aliens and stop the abuse of parole. According to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), “As bad as we think the bill is, I promise you, it’s worse. The people pushing this deal know if the American people knew what was in it, they would be against it. This supplemental bill is a kamikaze plane in a box canyon with no exit, headed for a train wreck.”
Senate leadership on both sides, however, remains committed to moving the package forward. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said last Thursday that Democrats are “resolute on reaching an agreement on securing the southern border. We know how important this is, we are negotiating in good faith, and we want to get this done in a bipartisan way.” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) likewise signaled his continued support for the negotiations, after reports earlier in the week suggested he was souring on tying border security changes to foreign aid funding.
In the House, Republican leadership has continued to advocate for the FAIR-supported H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act. In a letter sent last Friday, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), noted that nine months have passed since that bill was sent to Senate and that it “contains the core legislative reforms that are necessary to actually compel the Biden Administration to resolve the border catastrophe.” Johnson went on to question the Administration’s commitment to securing the border with Mayorkas at the helm, pointing to 64 specific actions taken that led to the border crisis. He referred to the Senate proposal as “dead on arrival” in the House if leaked reports are accurate and called on President Biden to show he is serious about ending the crisis by signing an order immediately to put a stop to the mass release of illegal aliens.
Late last Friday, President Biden instead put out a statement praising the Senate package. In his statement, Biden finally acknowledged that our borders are in a state of crisis and referred to the Senate package as “the toughest and fairest set of reforms to secure the border we’ve ever had in our country.” Missing from that statement is that the president does not need Congress to act to stem the border crisis, which he created, and has existing authority under INA 212(f) to “suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.” With the Senate deal now garnering public support from the White House, the text of that package must be released so that the American people can judge for themselves. Continuing to negotiate behind closed doors is unacceptable.
Last month, Senate Republicans blocked a key procedural vote to advance the foreign aid spending package without any border security measures. They still have an opportunity to build on that victory by standing firm and advocating for meaningful policy changes. Congress must insist that any federal spending agreement ends the mass release of illegal aliens, curbs abuse of our asylum system, and stops the unlawful use of parole. With the American people and states across the country demanding change, the time to pass real reforms to end the Biden border crisis and secure our borders is now.
To learn more about H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act, and how you can get involved, visit FAIR’s activist toolkit here.