Senate border bill careens toward defeat as McConnell tries to soothe GOP outrage

A bipartisan border security proposal is headed toward defeat in the Senate, along with $118 billion in attached foreign aid for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan.

Facing fierce hostility from Senate and House Republicans over the package’s border provisions assailed by conservatives as too weak, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed that his members were prepared to tank the legislation in a procedural vote on Wednesday.

“It looks to me — and most of our members — that we have no real chance here to make a law,” the Kentucky Republican said Tuesday. “If we’re not going to be able to make a law, they’re reluctant to go forward.”

Sixty senators are needed Wednesday to advance the package, an ill-fated vote that Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer is charging forward with and daring Republicans to oppose.

House Republicans have warned the bill, should it somehow clear the upper chamber, is dead on arrival.

“It is Donald Trump and the inability by Republican congressmen and senators to resist his bullying, even though they know he’s wrong,” said Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat.

President Biden, whom Republicans accuse of creating the crisis at the southern border and failing to use executive authority to fix the problem, pleaded for GOP support. He sought to flip the script on who’s to blame.

“Donald Trump thinks it’s bad for him politically, even though it helps the country,” Mr. Biden said at the White House. “He’d rather weaponize the issue than actually solve it.”

Among the border provisions opposed by Republicans are mandatory expulsion powers once illegal entries top 4,000 per day, a threshold blasted by conservatives as unacceptably high. Current illegal crossings are far higher, topping 10,000 per day on average.

Several Republicans who voted last year against reelecting Mr. McConnell as Senate GOP leader blamed him for the border bill’s crash and burn by sanctioning secret negotiations with Democrats.

Sen. J.D. Vance, Ohio Republican, called Mr. McConnell “massively out of touch with Republican voters” and said pairing border policies with Ukraine aid was a ploy to “sabotage real border security.” He described the pressure of supporting whatever deal the secret talks produced as “unadulterated b———-.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, repeated the call for Mr. McConnell‘s ouster as GOP leader.

“I think we can all agree that Sen. Cruz is not a fan,” Mr. McConnell shot back, before noting it was Republicans who insisted border changes be tied to Ukraine. “I followed the instructions of my conference, who were insisting that we tackle this in October.”

While Mr. Schumer controls the floor, Mr. McConnell floated a potential plan B: starting over by decoupling the border issue, and passing aid for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan as its own bill.

Other top Senate Republicans made similar suggestions, but it’s unclear whether it would garner enough GOP support. It would require 60 votes and buy-in from at least nine Republicans to overcome a filibuster. Ukraine funding in any form is unlikely to survive the Republican-controlled House.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican and a close McConnell ally, suggested southern border legislation may need to hold off on until after the election in hopes that Mr. Trump retakes the White House.

“What confidence do you have that [Mr. Biden] will actually enforce these new changes?” Mr. Cornyn said. “I don’t care how good the policies are. If you don’t have somebody who’s willing to enforce the law, then nothing’s going to change.”

Stephen Dinan and Jeff Mordock contributed to this story.

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