Senate to Vote Again on Border Deal as Democrats Seek Political Edge

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, plans to push forward this week with a second vote on a bipartisan border enforcement bill that Senate Republicans killed earlier this year at the urging of former President Donald J. Trump.

The measure is almost certain to be blocked again, but Democrats hope to use the failed vote to sharpen an election-year contrast with the G.O.P. on a critical issue that polls show is a major potential liability for President Biden and their candidates.

Democrats will aim to neutralize the issue by showing voters that they and Mr. Biden have tried to get migration at the U.S. border with Mexico under control, but have been thwarted repeatedly by Republicans following the lead of Mr. Trump.

“The former president made clear he would rather preserve the issue for his campaign than solve the issue in a bipartisan fashion,” Mr. Schumer wrote in a letter to colleagues that heralded the bill’s provisions and outlined his plans. “On cue, many of our Republican colleagues abruptly reversed course on their prior support, announcing their newfound opposition to the bipartisan proposal.”

After months of negotiation, Republicans and Democrats reached an improbable immigration compromise in February — one that G.O.P. lawmakers had insisted was a prerequisite for providing additional aid to Ukraine — that appeared to have a chance at passage. But Mr. Trump called it too weak and instructed his allies in Congress to vote it down. The measure failed when it fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance in the Senate, with all but four Republicans voting to block it. (In the 50-to-49 vote, three Democrats and one independent also voted “no,” denying the measure even a simple majority.)

Mr. Biden, whose team helped hammer out the deal, urged support for it on Monday in a statement from Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, that said, “We strongly support this legislation and call on every senator to put partisan politics aside and vote to secure the border.”

Among other changes to immigration law, the measure would make it more difficult to gain asylum in the United States and increase detentions and deportations of those crossing into the country without authorization. It would also effectively close the border altogether if the average number of migrants encountered by immigration officials exceeded a certain threshold — an average of 5,000 over the course of a week or 8,500 on any given day. The bill also would give the president power to close the border unilaterally if migrant encounters reach an average of 4,000 per day over a week.

While crossings have fallen substantially in recent months, the average number per day over the month of March far exceeded those thresholds, at just over 6,000, according to Customs and Border Protection. Polls show Americans are deeply concerned about the state of the southern border.

The compromise measure was negotiated by Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma; Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut; and Senator Kyrsten Sinema, independent of Arizona. Mr. Murphy joined Mr. Schumer at a news conference last week to announce he was reintroducing the bill.

“If Republicans think this situation at the border is an emergency, then let’s give them another chance to do the right thing,” Mr. Murphy said.

Republicans quickly signaled that they planned to block the bill again.

“This ‘border security bill’ doesn’t secure the border. In the hands of Biden, it’d make the border far LESS secure,” Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, wrote on social media. “I’ll be voting ‘heck no!’”

“Should it reach the House, the bill would be dead on arrival,” Speaker Mike Johnson and the rest of the House Republican leadership team wrote in a joint statement.

Mr. Lankford spoke out last week on the Senate floor against Mr. Schumer’s plan to again bring up the bill he had helped negotiate, calling the move political.

“Why are we doing this?” Mr. Lankford said. “All the American people see it. Everybody sees this is political.”

Mr. Lankford pointed to a memo written by his Democratic colleagues that credited the death of the border bill with helping Representative Tom Suozzi, a Democrat, flip a seat in New York.

“The bill that I worked with Senator Murphy and Senator Sinema on — we’re not going to be able to pass,” Mr. Lankford said. “So let’s find the sections of it that we can pass. The worst-case scenario is doing nothing. That’s what we’re currently doing.”

Mr. Biden for months has considered issuing an executive order to prevent people who cross illegally into the United States from claiming asylum.

But on Monday, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, said that the bill up for a Senate vote this week “provides more tools” than any executive action under consideration, and that any unilateral move by the president would run up against a challenge in the courts anyway.

“Legislation provides, therefore, a level of stability, assurance and endurance,” Mr. Mayorkas told a group of reporters at the headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security. “So legislation is what is needed.”

Carl Hulse Michael D. Shear and Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reporting.

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