Republicans in Congress who have demanded for months that any aid to Ukraine be coupled with curbs on migration to the United States got what they asked for when a bipartisan group of senators announced a $118.3 billion deal that would provide both.
On Monday, however, many of them refused.
It was the latest indication that the political foundation for any deal on immigration – especially in an election year when it is expected to be a central issue in the presidential campaign – has disappeared.
With former President Donald J. Trump eager to attack President Biden’s record on the border and right-wing Republicans in Congress falling in line behind him, a compromise was always going to be a long shot. The long-awaited release of the text of the 370-page bill Sunday night only served to inflame Republican divisions on an issue that once united them.
Even as Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader and supporter of funding Ukraine, kept his word to push for action on the bill, many of his fellow Republican leaders savaged him. Speaker Mike Johnson blasted the measure as “even worse than we expected” and repeated what has become his mantra on the deal – that it will be “dead on arrival” in the House.
Even more moderate Republican voices like Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who encouraged the talks, said he had “serious concerns” after reviewing them. (Mr. Cornyn, who is often mentioned as a potential successor to Mr. McConnell as Republican leader, made a separate statement to the hard-right news outlet Breitbart.)
It pointed to a bleak outlook for the complicated compromise bill that followed a longstanding pattern on Capitol Hill, where major immigration deals often came close to passage only to fall apart just short of the finish line after Republicans denounced them as too weak.
The first test for the measure will come Wednesday, when an initial procedural vote is scheduled. He needs 60 votes to advance, meaning at least 10 Republicans would have to support him. Even if the bill clears that hurdle and can pass the Senate, there appears to be no way forward in the House.
“The $64,000 question now is whether or not senators can drown out the outside noise, drown out people like Donald Trump who want chaos and do the right thing for America,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, said in a speech on the Senate floor Monday. in the afternoon. “I urge senators of good will on both sides of the aisle to do the right thing and shut down the chaos.”
Mr. Schumer reminded his colleagues that “we live in an era of divided government, and that means that both sides have to compromise if we want to pass the law.”
Still, Republicans’ abandonment of the deal also threatened to erode support on the left, where some Democrats are reluctant to back a bill that pro-immigration groups have condemned as a betrayal of American values and that some conservative groups like the National Border Patrol Council have supported.
For Democrats who have pushed for any immigration measure that includes legal status for large groups of undocumented people, including so-called Dreamers brought to the United States as children, voting for a bill that lacks such provisions and has no path to becoming law is bittersweet anyway the pill.
There is even less enthusiasm among Republicans for finding a middle ground at the start of an election year in which Mr. Trump is already winning the nomination contests. He once again made the border a centerpiece of his campaign and encouraged Republicans to oppose anything but the hardline policies he introduced as president. And his “America First” approach to foreign policy has also helped erode GOP support for sending aid to Ukraine for its war against Russian aggression.
Senator Steve Daines, Republican of Montana and chairman of the Senate Republican campaign, echoed Mr Trump’s words on Monday, bluntly saying he would be “no” to the bill.
“I cannot support a law that does not secure the border, provides taxpayer-funded lawyers to illegal immigrants, and gives billions to radical open border groups,” he said on social media.
By Monday morning, at least 15 Senate Republicans and three Senate Democrats had made it clear they would oppose the bill, raising questions about whether Schumer and McConnell would be able to muster the 60 votes necessary for passage.
“Make no mistake, the gauntlet has been thrown and America needs to pick it up,” said Mr. McConnell on Monday afternoon about sending critical funds to Ukraine.
But Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, his No. 2 who has also pushed for a bipartisan deal, was noncommittal Monday, suggesting Republicans might also be reluctant to back a measure criticized as too weak if it could not become law.
“People want a result,” he told reporters. “They want an outcome if we’re going to go through this process.”
Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, who served as the lead Republican negotiator on the border deal, could not hide his frustration with his party as he tried to explain the final product that was released after more than three months of daily negotiations. The same Republicans who complained that they needed more time to read the bill, Mr. Lankford said, rushed to condemn it on social media.
“Are we, as Republicans, going to hold press conferences and complain that the border is bad, and then deliberately leave it open after the worst month in American history in December? he said on “Fox & Friends.”
The answer seemed to be a clear yes.
Some progressive senators also said the deal missed the mark.
Sen. Alex Padilla of California, who is Hispanic, condemned the bill for failing to provide help for Dreamers and making it harder for migrants to get asylum. He complained that no members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus were included in the negotiations.
“While bipartisanship requires political compromise, it does not require compromising our nation’s core values,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Global Refuge, calling the bill an abandonment of “our legal and moral obligations to people seeking refuge.”
Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat, said in a statement that he held his nose while supporting the bill, in large part because the future and fate of Europe were linked.
“A bipartisan deal can help, but nothing short of comprehensive reform will really solve this problem,” he said in a carefully worded statement. In the Senate, he lamented the fact that the measure would not provide relief for Dreamers.
“Without action from Congress, they spent every day in fear of deportation,” he said. “They grew up with our children; many have gone to serve our nation.”
The Spanish caucus in Congress said Monday night that funding Ukraine is not enough reason to support a bill that includes policies inconsistent with its values.
“We can’t just throw up our hands and accept bad immigration policies that stifle asylum and could delay real bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform for 10 to 15 years for temporary relief,” said Rep. Nanette Barragán of California, the caucus chair. statement.