I’ve covered Congress for more than 20 years. I’ve attended more congressional hearings than I care to remember, followed countless legislative fights, spoken to plenty of sitting and former lawmakers, and learned a ton from underappreciated Capitol Hill staffers.
But I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like the ongoing fight over border reforms and security aid. In the hopes of making this less head-spinning, let’s take the process step by step.
Step 1: Last fall, Democrats wanted to pass a security aid package. Republicans responded that they’d support such a bill, but only if Democrats agreed to add conservative provisions related to immigration and border policy.
Step 2: Democrats agreed to the GOP demands, negotiated a bipartisan bill, and packaged the two policies together.
Step 3: Republicans killed the compromise plan they'd demanded, said security aid and border reforms must be kept separate, and signaled support for a security aid measure without unrelated provisions, which is what Democrats wanted in the first place.
Step 4: Democrats — who keep saying yes to GOP directives — tried to advance a new bill focused on security aid, only to once again run into Republican resistance.
And why, pray tell, are GOP senators once again looking askance at the proposal they endorsed? A Semafor report, published a couple of hours ago, summarized the matter nicely:
Senators are expected to vote today on whether to advance a foreign aid package including help for Kyiv, Israel, and Taiwan, minus the border deal Republicans deep-sixed earlier this week. But despite the support of Republican leaders, the effort is facing possible trouble. The reason? GOP lawmakers want a chance to add amendments on — wait for it — border security.
A Politico report added, “The Senate GOP’s contortions are almost comical: Having first rejected the immigration-and-foreign-aid bill for its immigration portion, some senators are now demanding immigration amendment votes for the foreign aid-only bill — even though some hard-line provisions won’t likely pass.”
As the bewildering drama unfolded on Capitol Hill, Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina appeared on Fox Business and said he opposed a stand-alone security aid package because it didn’t include provisions related to the U.S./Mexico border.
Of course, a couple of hours earlier, Scott voted against a bipartisan bill that addressed both security aid and border reforms.
One NBC News reporter referred to this as the Senate Republicans’ “endless doom loop.” They oppose security aid unless it includes border reforms, so Senate Democrats offer them security aid that includes border reforms, which GOP senators also oppose. So Democrats remove the border reforms, only to find Republicans still aren’t satisfied.
The GOP minority wants the two unrelated policies to be tied together, except when they don’t, and then do again.
As the day on Capitol Hill wrapped up, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the chamber was recessing to “give our Republican colleagues the night to figure themselves out.”
Whether that’s possible or not remains to be seen.
Update: Maybe some GOP senators figured themselves out? A few hours after this post was first published, the Senate held a procedural vote on a stand-alone security aid bill. It passed with 67 votes. There are still plenty of hurdles between here and the finish line, but at least the $95 billion package is now moving.