House Republican leaders demand Senate reject immigration compromise – live | US politics

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House Republican leaders demand Senate reject immigration compromise

In a just-released statement, the top Republicans in the House called on the Senate to vote down the bipartisan immigration policy legislation.

“Any consideration of this Senate bill in its current form is a waste of time. It is DEAD on arrival in the House. We encourage the U.S. Senate to reject it,” speaker Mike Johnson, majority leader Steve Scalise, whip Tom Emmer and conference chairwoman Elise Stefanik said.

They instead called on Congress’s upper chamber to pass the Secure the Border Act, a package of hardline policies the House approved last year – among them, restarting construction of Donald Trump’s border wall – that Democrats have rejected.

“Because President Biden has refused to utilize his broad executive authority to end the border catastrophe that he has created, the House led nine months ago with the passage of the Secure the Border Act (H.R. 2). That bill contains the necessary components to actually stem the flow of illegals and end the present crisis. The Senate must take it up immediately,” they said.

Key events

The special election to replace George Santos in the House will be yet another opportunity to gauge the relative support each party has among voters in a swing district, the Guardian’s Adam Gabbatt reports:

George Santos, an overcoat draped around his shoulders like a villain’s cape, finally left Washington in December, expelled from Congress as he faced more than 20 fraud charges, and after his almost entirely fabricated backstory fell apart.

“To hell with this place,” Santos declared as he exited.

But while the Republican may be done with Washington, plenty of other people were soon desperate to fill his seat representing New York’s third congressional district.

In Long Island, New York, the former congressman Tom Suozzi emerged as the Democratic candidate hoping to replace Santos. Quickly, Suozzi set about distancing himself from the left of his party. He has promised to “battle” the “Squad”, a group of progressive Democratic members of Congress and has discussed the “border crisis”.

Mazi Pilip, a relatively unknown local politician, was chosen by a local Republican party desperate to move on from the embarrassment that Santos – whose claims that he was a successful businessman and investor, a graduate of a top New York university and a whiz on the volleyball court had all fallen apart under scrutiny – had brought.

While the looming presence of Santos, who has pleaded not guilty to charges including stealing donors’ identities, has piqued national interest, the Suozzi-Pilip match-up could also provide an early insight into what the US can expect in what’s likely to be a second presidential election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump in November.

With early and absentee voting due to start in the special election on Saturday – election day is 13 February – so far it seems that immigration is top of the agenda, for Republicans at least.

The special election to replace expelled Republican congressman George Santos could turn into something of a proxy war over the immigration policy bill.

The New York Times reports that Mazi Pilip, the Republican candidate for Santos’s old seat in the city’s Long Island suburbs, has come out against the bill. Her Democratic opponent, Tom Suozzi, says he would support it:

New: Mazi Pilip, the Republican in next week’s special House election in the NYC suburbs, comes out against the Senate’s border deal, slamming it as “the legalization of the invasion of our country.”

Her opponent, Tom Suozzi, says he would support the deal.

— Nicholas Fandos (@npfandos) February 5, 2024

Voters in New York’s third congressional district voted for Biden in 2020, but elected Santos two years later, only to find out that he had lied about most everything. The House voted to expel him late last year, setting up the 13 February special election that forecasters view as a toss-up.

“Are we, as Republicans, going to have press conferences and complain the border’s bad, and then intentionally leave it open?”

That’s the question posed in an interview with Fox News by James Lankford, the Oklahoma senator who negotiated the immigration policy deal, which is now under siege from his fellow Republicans in the House and Senate. Since Joe Biden took office three years ago, the GOP has accused the president of mishandling border security, and Lankford argues that it would be a mistake to reject legislation that would improve the situation.

Here’s more of what Lankford had to say:

“If I go back 2 months ago and say we have the shot under a Democrat president to…lock down the border…no one would have believed it. And now, no one actually wants to be able to fix it.”

— Sen. Lankford (R-OK) on Speaker Johnson (R-LA) calling border bill “dead on arrival”

— The Recount (@therecount) February 5, 2024

Trump claims immigration deal ‘horrendous’, underscoring long odds to passage

Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, has dealt what may be a death blow against the immigration policy deal by attacking it as “horrendous”, and calling for even stricter border security measures.

In a post on Truth social, Trump had this to say about the legislation, after its exact provisions were made public on Sunday:

Only a fool, or a Radical Left Democrat, would vote for this horrendous Border Bill, which only gives Shutdown Authority after 5000 Encounters a day, when we already have the right to CLOSE THE BORDER NOW, which must be done. This Bill is a great gift to the Democrats, and a Death Wish for The Republican Party. It takes the HORRIBLE JOB the Democrats have done on Immigration and the Border, absolves them, and puts it all squarely on the shoulders of Republicans. Don’t be STUPID!!! We need a separate Border and Immigration Bill. It should not be tied to foreign aid in any way, shape, or form! The Democrats broke Immigration and the Border. They should fix it. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!!!

Last month, reports emerged that Mitch McConnell, the top Senate Republican, warned his lawmakers in a behind-closed-door meeting that the party may have to reject the bill because Trump wants to be able to campaign on immigration reform. McConnell then walked back those comments and has publicly said he supports the immigration bill, but Trump’s objections could cause other Republicans to reject it.

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The three senators who crafted the immigration policy compromise are Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Republican James Lankford of Oklahoma and Kyrsten Sinema, an independent representing Arizona.

The trio has each released their own starkly summaries of the wide-ranging bill, which highlights different aspects of it in, line with their own philosophies.

“The new border security bill does not include amnesty of any kind,” reads Lankford’s summary. It dubs the current immigration system “Catch & Release” and says the bill would replace it with “Catch & Deport”. The Oklahoman highlights one of the biggest changes the proposal would make at the border, which is automatically closing it to new arrivals if crossing reach a certain point. From his summary:

Changes the default when the border is overrun from releasing everyone into the country to deporting everyone out of the country. When the average number of crossings exceeds 5,000 people a week (which it has every week but one in the past four months) everyone crossing illegally everyday is rapidly deported out of the country without an asylum screening. In the past four months almost a million people have crossed our border. If this law had been in place four months ago, all of them would have been deported out of the country, rather than released into the country.

When the border closes, it stays closed and everyone is deported every day until the number of people crossing illegally drops. Once the number of encounters drop, the border continues to stay closed for up to an additional two weeks to continue to drive the numbers down; It closes the border when we exceed our capacity to detain and deport so no one is released into the US because of the crowd.

In his summary, Murphy highlights how the bill would offer new resources to migrants, such as work authorizations for asylum seekers, and attorneys for people facing deportation. He also notes that “Democrats rejected many of the harmful and draconian policies pushed by Republicans”, such as making it easier to deport people already in the country, and making it more difficult to obtain asylum.

Shortly after the immigration policy compromise legislation was released, Republican House majority leader Steve Scalise said the chamber would refuse to hold a vote on it:

Let me be clear: The Senate Border Bill will NOT receive a vote in the House.

Here’s what the people pushing this “deal” aren’t telling you: It accepts 5,000 illegal immigrants a day and gives automatic work permits to asylum recipients—a magnet for more illegal immigration.

— Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) February 5, 2024

But it was that latter part of the tweet that appears to have sparked a response from James Lankford, the Oklahoma senator who was the main Republican involved in negotiating the bill. He took issue with Scalise’s statement that the proposal would allow 5,000 undocumented people into the country per day, saying it would do no such thing:

The Border Emergency Authority has been the most misunderstood or maybe just misrepresented parts of the bill. Some people have said it would mean 5,000 people a day are coming into the country every day. That is absurd and untrue.

— Sen. James Lankford (@SenatorLankford) February 5, 2024

The emergency authority is not designed to let 5,000 people in, it is designed to close the border and turn 5,000 people around.

— Sen. James Lankford (@SenatorLankford) February 5, 2024

Some Senate Democrats are also objecting to the immigration deal, arguing it unnecessarily dismantles protections for migrants.

California’s Alex Padilla argues the proposal is inconsistent with international law, and was negotiated by the wrong people:

It is critical that we support our allies in their fight to defend democracy and provide humanitarian relief, but not at the expense of dismantling our asylum system while ultimately failing to alleviate the challenges at our border.

Read my full statement below.

— Senator Alex Padilla (@SenAlexPadilla) February 5, 2024

New Jersey’s Bob Menendez also came out against it, saying the chamber was being set up to vote on the proposal without having enough time to review it. Like Padilla, he objected to Hispanic lawmakers not being involved in its negotiation. “Could you imagine a voting rights deal coming together without start-to-finish input from the Congressional Black Caucus? Unimaginable! An immigration deal without any input from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and immigration advocates should be equally unimaginable. Yet here we are,” Menendez said.

He also said the bill was too conservative. Here’s more from Menendez:

This package — which we have just begun to study — doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. These changes are permanent in nature without any meaningful relief for the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country, including Dreamers that have lived here for a decade or more. Major chunks of this legislation read like an enforcement wish list from the Trump administration, and directly clash with the most basic tenets of our asylum system. It would permanently contort our asylum system by making it harder for asylum seekers to have their claims heard and making it impossible for asylum claims to be adjudicated at all based on arbitrarily set trigger numbers that could shut down our border.

Republican opposition grows to immigration deal

The immigration policy compromise legislation was negotiated by a trio of Democratic, Republican and independent senators. It has the support of Joe Biden, and the leaders of both parties in the Senate.

Yet all signs point to the bill eventually ending up on the trash heap, alongside all the other immigration policy proposals Congress has rejected over the past two decades. The biggest sign of its eventual fate is Republican House speaker Mike Johnson’s opposition to the legislation. He had repeatedly hinted that he would reject the bill when it was released, and made good on that promise:

I’ve seen enough. This bill is even worse than we expected, and won’t come close to ending the border catastrophe the President has created. As the lead Democrat negotiator proclaimed: Under this legislation, “the border never closes.”

If this bill reaches the House, it will be…

— Speaker Mike Johnson (@SpeakerJohnson) February 5, 2024

Meanwhile, opposition to the proposal is growing in the Senate, particularly among Republicans. While Democrats control the chamber, the legislation will need the votes of at least nine Republicans to overcome a filibuster. Montana’s Steve Daines just announced he is against the bill. That’s significant, because he is a member of Senate Republican leadership:

I can’t support a bill that doesn’t secure the border, provides taxpayer funded lawyers to illegal immigrants and gives billions to radical open borders groups. I’m a no.

— Steve Daines (@SteveDaines) February 5, 2024

Daines, notably, demands the president reinstitute hardline immigration policies enacted under Donald Trump, which Biden repealed. That’s a nonstarter:

President Biden should instead use his executive authority to reinstitute the Trump policies he canceled:

➡️ Remain in Mexico

➡️ Title 42

➡️ Wall construction

— Steve Daines (@SteveDaines) February 5, 2024

Ukraine and Israel aid under threat as immigration bill faces stiff opposition

Good morning, US politics blog readers. The Senate over the weekend released the text of its long-awaited proposal to enact strict immigration policy measures meant to discourage migrants from crossing the southern border. Republicans have demanded passage of the legislation in exchange for their votes for another round of military aid to Ukraine, as well as Israel. But the proposal wasn’t enough for many in the GOP, most significantly House speaker Mike Johnson, who declared the legislation “dead on arrival”. Several Democrats are also objecting to measures in the bill that would essentially turn away migrants, raising questions about whether it has enough support in either chamber to pass.

If the bill dies, it’s unclear how Congress will find agreement on providing military aid to two of America’s biggest national security priorities, particularly Ukraine, whose cause far-right lawmakers have turned against. While Joe Biden has argued the two countries’ causes are linked, Johnson vowed over the weekend to hold a vote on a stand-alone aid package for Israel – a prospect Biden and the Democrats rejected as insufficient. The deadlock raises the prospect that neither country will receive the US military assistance they argue they need, at least not anytime soon.

Here’s what else is going on today:

  • Campaigning is picking up in the New York City suburbs, ahead of the 13 February special election to replace expelled Republican congressman George Santos. Democrats hope former House lawmaker Tom Suozzi can win the seat back, while the GOP is backing their candidate Mazi Pilip.

  • Primary season continues this week, though without many surprises expected. After Biden won South Carolina’s Democratic primary on Saturday, Donald Trump is expected to triumph in Thursday’s Republican caucuses in Nevada.

  • Antony Blinken is on another tour of the Middle East as the Biden administration faces the prospect of a widening regional conflict. Follow our live blog for more.

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