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Senate Republicans block border security deal again

Asylum seekers stand in a line while volunteers hand out food, water, blankets, hats, and clothes near the border wall in Jacumba, California on Saturday, May 13, 2023. The U.S. Senate defeated an immigration bill for the second time in two months Thursday. Photo by Ariana Dreshler/UPI
Asylum seekers stand in a line while volunteers hand out food, water, blankets, hats, and clothes near the border wall in Jacumba, California on Saturday, May 13, 2023. The U.S. Senate defeated an immigration bill for the second time in two months Thursday. Photo by Ariana Dreshler/UPI | License Photo

May 23 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate voted down a bipartisan border bill for the second time in two months Thursday, a move that could prompt President Joe Biden to sidestep the legislative process and begin issuing executive orders on immigration in June.

Bills aimed at solving immigration problems at the U.S.-Mexico border have become highly charged political fodder this election season, as Republicans have said they are hesitant to give Biden and the Democratic Party any sort of win on such an important issue, even if both parties previously had agreed on potential solutions.

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A bipartisan border bill was part of a larger National Security Supplemental put together by Sens. James Lankford, R-Okla., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., that would have provided billions of dollars in funding for the Southwest border and grant the president emergency authority to shut down the border if unauthorized border crossings reach a certain level.

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That bill had Republican support until House Speaker Mike Johnson called it "dead on arrival" after Donald Trump voiced his opposition to the measure as part of his presidential campaign.

"To my Republican colleagues, you wanted this border bill. ... It's time to show you're serious about solving the problem," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said just before the vote on Thursday.

Each party has been blaming the other for the demise of all of the proposals that make it to a vote, even though both sides are largely in agreement with the contents of all of the bills put forward.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell flip-flopped on the issue. Having originally supported the most recent immigration measure, he changed course and came out against it Thursday, casting a no vote, and attempting to frame immigration in partisan terms, blaming Democrats for stalling on the issue.

"The solution is a president who's willing to exercise the authority, to use the tools he already has," McConnell said. "If Senate Democrats wanted to start fixing the crisis tomorrow, they would be urging the president to do exactly that."

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The immigration measure has turned into a saga under the capitol dome, and most of the legwork has been put in by Murphy, Sinema and Lankford stretching back to last year.

While she has not said the logjam over immigration reform was her reason, Sinema is not seeking re-election in a state where she had been highly popular as a Democrat, and switched parties only after the rancor over immigration hit a boiling point.

Lankford, himself, among the chief supporters of the bill, also switched his vote, falling in line behind Trump, the standard bearer for the GOP and the party's likely presidential nominee, chalking Thursday's no vote up to political theater.

"Today is not a bill. Today is a prop," he said. "Today is a political messaging exercise," Lankford said before the vote. "That doesn't help us as a country."

The bill containing new immigration policy was initially entwined with aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, but it became clear that omnibus bills containing immigration and almost anything else were not going to pass.

Foreign aid passed and immigration was separated from that package. Foreign aid passed on its own. Immigration remains stalled.

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The bill that was defeated Thursday would have created better standards for asylum seekers, made processing times faster for people seeking refuge and triggered automatic border shutdowns when a certain threshold of crossers was reached.

The border shutdown is largely expected to be one of Biden' executive orders this summer.

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