Sunday, June 16, 2024

Senate Republicans in discussions to add border security to stopgap bill

Senate Republicans in discussions to add border security to stopgap bill

Members of the House and Senate are discussing adding border security provisions to a short-term funding bill in hopes of getting enough House Republican support to avert a government shutdown over the weekend.

By Thursday evening, no clear agreement had solidified and the two chambers remained at odds on a short-term funding plan. Without a solution to the stalemate, the government will shut down at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

The Senate did advance the vehicle for its bipartisan continuing resolution that would keep the government open beyond its Saturday funding deadline. The package, which continues current funding levels until mid-November, also includes additional funding for domestic disaster relief and Ukraine, the latter of which has been a divisive issue among House Republicans.

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But it does not include supplemental funds for border security, which House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has said is key in his chamber for support of a stopgap bill. President Biden has also asked Congress for supplemental funding for border security and to address the fentanyl crisis.

Amending the Senate continuing resolution would need the support of 60 senators, meaning if all Republicans support the addition, they would only need 11 Democrats and independents for inclusion. But the details of any border-related proposal will be key, as the parties have rarely been able to find consensus around the issue.

On Thursday morning, McCarthy told reporters that over the past 24 hours he’d had conversations with some Senate Democrats who are interested in adding border funding to their chamber’s continuing resolution. He also noted that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) — who has knocked the White House and Senate Democratic leaders for not allocating more money for the border — is among the lawmakers he’s been in touch with.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said the Senate is working on figuring out a “way to grow the vote to avoid a shutdown, but also to have real teeth on border and immigration reform that is credible and could potentially get done.”

By Thursday evening, Senate Republicans were considering an amendment to the continuing resolution that would include $6 billion in funding for border security but no new immigration policy, according to two Republican aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss negotiations. Two bipartisan sets of senators — Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.); and Susan Collins (R-Maine), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Sinema — appeared to be involved in the talks.

While Murphy said he’s open to changes to the Senate continuing resolution, he said it didn’t appear there was agreement among House and Senate Republicans over what exactly that additional border policy would look like.

“There’s not a consensus position among Republicans as to what immigration changes they want,” Murphy said. “Some want funding, some want policy, some want big policy, some want small policy. It’s very hard to work out all of those differences and the differences with Democrats between now and Saturday.”

The small group of House Republicans who might force a government shutdown

Final passage on the Senate’s stopgap resolution will likely be stalled by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who opposes any new funds for Ukraine and who said on Thursday that he would object to moving the bill forward through a process known as unanimous consent. Without Paul’s support, senators would be forced to hold a full vote on the bill, slowing down the process even as the clock ticks closer to Sunday, when government funding will run out.

The current version of the Senate stopgap bill has fallen flat in the House, where McCarthy has said he will not bring it to the floor for a vote. House Republicans have focused instead on moving forward on a handful of long-term appropriations bills for fiscal year 2024. Their passage has no impact on whether the government shuts down at the end of the month, but McCarthy and other Republican leaders have hoped that a good-faith effort to move long-term spending bills forward could shake loose more support for a short-term solution.

McCarthy has said he plans on putting a House GOP version of a stopgap bill on the floor Friday, which would include House Republicans’ border security bill and significant cuts to all departments except for Veterans Affairs and Defense. Republicans are still mulling how long the stopgap bill would last, and it is not yet clear if McCarthy has enough support to move such a bill forward.

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), who was previously against supporting a stopgap measure, said McCarthy told the conference Thursday morning they needed to pass their own proposal so as not to be “held hostage” by the Senate.

Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, said he expects to see a continuing resolution on the House floor Friday that would cut spending to the levels set by the House GOP-approved “Limit Save Grow Act,” which the chamber passed in April.

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While Good said he would support a continuing resolution put forth by McCarthy, he lamented the slow pace in which Republicans have moved on long-term appropriations wills, calling it a “failure of leadership.”

McCarthy has been thwarted from passing a competing continuing resolution to the Senate’s plan over objections from hard-liners in his conference. They want to advance 12 individual long-term spending bills that fund a variety of government departments, and have said they were promised that process by McCarthy in January as he tried to earn the speaker’s gavel.

At least one of those holdouts on Thursday morning said he was still a no vote on a stopgap bill.

“Nothing ever gets settled in a meeting like this,” Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) told reporters outside the Capitol Hill Club, where House Republicans were meeting. “Everybody puffs up, and everybody does their thing.”

More than 25 members of the House Freedom Caucus released a letter on Thursday demanding that McCarthy publicly reject the Senate short-term resolution. The members also called on McCarthy to announce how exactly he plans on securing the passage of all 12 individual House appropriations bills.

“No member of Congress can or should be expected to consider supporting a stop-gap funding measure without answers to these reasonable questions,” the right-wing members wrote.

After months of being unable to pass any appropriation bills through their ranks, House Republicans late Thursday passed three bills setting funding for the Departments of Defense, Homeland, and State for a full fiscal year. Democratic Reps. Jared Golden (Maine) and Marie Glusenkamp-Perez (Wash.) joined with Republicans in voting yes on the Pentagon and Homeland bills.

But the bill to fund the Agriculture Department failed after 27 Republicans joined Democrats in voting against it due to disputes over abortion-related and farming policies. The legislation had previously been pulled from consideration in July due to the policy differences, and GOP leadership expected Thursday’s vote would fail.

The House also overwhelmingly approved $300 million in funding for Ukraine, with more than 310 lawmakers voting in support after it had been stripped from the Pentagon bill for a separate vote. But a stark divide emerged among Republicans, with more voting against the measure than for it, 101-117.

Late Wednesday night, the House Rules Committee stripped $300 million from the Department of Defense appropriations bill to get the legislation passed in a move meant to win over Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who has said her vote is contingent on no funding for Ukraine.

House Republicans have now passed four out of 12 appropriation bills, a move that many within the conference hope shows a good-faith effort to hardline holdouts who did not believe their colleagues would support their demands for significant cuts to spending. Rather than focus on passing a short-term spending bill to avert a government shutdown Sunday, the GOP conference spent the last 48 hours voting on a slew of amendments to prove their hardline colleagues wrong and maybe persuade them to relent on their pledge to never vote for a stopgap bill.

As he made his way to the House floor for a round of votes on amendments to the State Department funding bill, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) said he would advise McCarthy to put the appropriations bills on the floor for a vote, even if he doesn’t have the numbers to pass them.

Eli Tan contributed to this report.

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