Washington Examiner

Democrats aim to change the narrative on border security amidst Republican criticism of a ‘political’ move

Congressional Democrats are boldly tackling border⁢ security, a once-avoided issue, ‌to appeal to‍ voters in the upcoming elections. Despite facing challenges, they aim to revive​ bipartisan border proposals while Republicans criticize⁢ their motives. The debate intensifies as⁣ both⁤ parties strategize on dealing‍ with the surge in border crossings. Congressional ‍Democrats are now taking ⁣on border security, previously avoided, to attract voters in the upcoming ⁢elections. Their goal is to revive bipartisan border proposals, although Republicans question their intentions. As both parties strategize, the discussion escalates on managing the increase ‌in ⁣border crossings.

Border security is a topic congressional Democrats once shied away from. Now, they’re embracing the politically charged subject as a winning election-year issue.

Democrats see an opening to score goodwill with voters on a policy that’s top of mind in polls, but that has been a political nightmare for the party due to a surge of illegal southern border crossings under President Joe Biden.

With the GOP dominating immigration among voters, Democrats are looking to be buoyed by a bipartisan border proposal that sank in the Senate earlier this year under the weight of conservative backlash, including from presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Senate Democrats say Republicans can either work with them to revive the lifeless legislation or be forced to vote it down again in the coming months.

“The reality is that they’re exposed. They don’t want to fix the border. They don’t want to have to vote on this again,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), the lead Democratic negotiator on border issues, told the Washington Examiner. “Right now, the Democratic Party is the only party that is serious about fixing the border. We’re going to continue to give Republicans opportunity to vote with us to secure the border and let the American public see who’s serious and who just wants to complain.”

The GOP backlash to the accusations and strategy was swift and across the board, including centrists and conservatives. They assailed the tactic as purely “political” months before the November elections and said Biden could fix the problem anytime he pleases with administrative policies.

“They haven’t engaged with any Republicans,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), who’s often involved in bipartisan talks, told the Washington Examiner. “It looks like another messaging effort, political effort.”

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), a leadership member, rolled her eyes upon learning of Democrats’ offer.

“Get on that recording, my eyes just rolled into the back of my head,” she told the Washington Examiner. “What’s their point? It’s all political. It’s all political. Biden can take care of a lot of what’s going on at the borders. And then we need to come together in a bipartisan manner and figure out the rest, but this is not the time.”

The opposition underscored the lack of desire among Senate Republicans to reopen fresh wounds on a contentious bill that their House counterparts already made clear has no chance of becoming law.

Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), left, talks as Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) listens during a news conference after a policy luncheon on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, May 8, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

After months of talks and the blessing of GOP negotiator Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), Senate Republicans in February tanked the bipartisan border bill that was attached to a foreign aid package. It would have provided roughly $20 billion for border security, expanded expulsion authority, bolstered asylum standards, and limited catch-and-release practices.

Four Republicans, including Lankford and Romney, voted in favor, while five Democrats voted against.

Meanwhile, Democrats in the House and deploying a similar flip-the-script tactic to portray Republicans as obstructionists, per a campaign strategy memo. House Republicans passed a far stricter border bill last year, but it was deemed dead on arrival by Senate Democrats.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), one of Senate Democrats’ most vulnerable members, has especially leaned into border security. The red-state Democrat has cut ads distancing himself from the president, saying he “worked with Republicans, fighting to shut down the border … and he fought to stop President Biden from letting migrants stay in America.”

Tester is now the lone Democrat to co-sponsor the Laken Riley Act, a GOP-championed illegal immigration bill named after a 22-year-old Georgia nursing student who was allegedly killed by an undocumented immigrant previously released by New York police for a nonviolent crime. The measure would require undocumented immigrants accused of certain crimes to be detained by law enforcement until deportation.

Tester voted against the measure in the form of an amendment to a government funding bill in March. The addition of the GOP-backed measure to the larger spending package could have upended the bipartisan deal and triggered a shutdown

Tester’s GOP challenger, Tim Sheehy, donned him the “Flip-Flop Flattop,” a reference to the senator’s haircut.

Tester told the Washington Examiner he supports Democrats’ renewed border security efforts, so long as it’s not to score political points.

“If we’re talking about rekindling talks to get something done, I’m all about it,” he said. “If we’re talking about doing stuff for political purposes, which is why that bill didn’t pass, count me out.”

The Department of Homeland Security unveiled a new policy this week to fast-track asylum processing at the southern border for migrants with serious alleged crimes or with terrorist links to more quickly deport them. Republicans said the move was the sort of executive action Biden could continue to take but has largely refused to.

The White House has countered that they lack congressional authority.

Lankford said he’s yet to hear from Democrats about rejuvenating the failed border endeavor and described the administration’s announcement as frustrating.

“It only frustrates me that they could have done it three years ago,” he told the Washington Examiner.

Lankford was unsure whether he would support his border legislation this time around should Democrats hold another vote.

“I want to see where we are on it,” he said. “I’m not backing away from anything we agreed to, but I’ve just got to be able to see where we are.”


Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) was among the few Republicans who expressed a strong willingness to go another round on border security with Democrats. But he cautioned that the Senate GOP should avoid boxing in House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), who just survived his first ouster attempt at the hands of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).

“There is always politics involved, but I want to see results, which means you’ve got to be able to coordinate with your allies in the House,” Rounds told the Washington Examiner. “One thing we don’t want to do is put Mike Johnson into a precarious position in the House right now.”

David Sivak contributed to this report.

" Conservative News Daily does not always share or support the views and opinions expressed here; they are just those of the writer."

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