Senate negotiators defend bipartisan border deal under fire from House GOP

(WASHINGTON) — The three senators who negotiated a bipartisan bill that would beef up border security and immigration enforcement while authorizing more assistance to Israel, Taiwan and Ukraine on Monday defended the package after House Republicans — led by Speaker Mike Johnson — are pushing to squash the deal before it even gets to the lower chamber.

Sens. James Lankford, R-Okla., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., worked for months to negotiate the terms of the $118.28 billion bipartisan national security supplemental package, the text of which was released Sunday night.

Hours after the text’s release, Johnson shot it down, saying in a statement that the bill is “dead on arrival” and “even worse than we expected, and won’t come close to ending the border catastrophe the President created.”

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise said the legislation will not even receive a vote in the House.

On Monday, Johnson told reporters that the Senate’s bill does not meet “the criteria that’s necessary to solve the problem.”

The negotiators said they are hopeful that the package will pass the Senate and, if it passes, acknowledged that it faces a bumpy road in the House.

“I am hopeful that we’ll pass this bill through the Senate,” Murphy, the top Democratic negotiator, said to ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott. “I think Speaker Johnson is desperate to stop this bill from coming to the House of Representatives because he doesn’t want to deal with it and he knows there will be a lot of pressure for it to pass if it reaches … the House.”

“Our job is first to pass it through the Senate and that is what we are going to try to do this week,” Murphy added.

Former President Donald Trump, who wants to run on immigration in November has put immense pressure on Republicans to reject the deal — putting Republican negotiators in an impossible scenario. Trump called the border deal a “death wish for the Republican Party” and “a highly sophisticated trap for Republicans to assume the blame on what the Radical Left Democrats have done to our Border,” in separate posts on his social media channel Monday.

In an appearance on the Dan Bongino Show on Monday, Trump criticized the border deal, latching on to rhetoric surrounding the deal that it would allow 5,000 migrants into the country a day. Lankford has dismissed this narrative as false.

“This bill is a disaster. This bill has 5,000 people a day potentially coming into our country. It doesn’t make sense. I don’t know this. I thought it was a typo. I thought they made a typo,” Trump said.

“This is crazy. This is lunacy, this bill. And you know what it is? It’s a gift to the Democrats,” the former president added.

Murphy did not shy away from claiming his GOP colleagues were bending the knee to Trump’s influence on this issue.

“I watched all of my Republican colleagues in the Senate stand up last fall and say we are not going to support Ukraine aid unless you get a bipartisan deal on the border,” Murphy said. “We got that bipartisan deal. It gives the president real powers to control the border and many Senate Republicans are going to oppose this bill because it is too effective, because Donald Trump is telling them, ‘No keep chaos at the border, don’t solve the problem because that is good politics for us.’ Well that is really bad for the country.”

The Senate will begin moving forward with the legislation later this week beginning with a procedural vote on Wednesday. Sixty senators will need to support the package for it to pass.

Murphy told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Monday morning that there are “about 25” Senate Republicans who are carefully considering whether or not to support the legislation. At least nine of them will need to support the bill for it to move forward in the Senate later this week, although likely more Republicans will need to back the bill as it’s expected that multiple Democrats will defect.

Lankford has found himself in the middle of a political storm as he fends off criticisms from his own Republican colleagues — including the former president — on the border deal that he helped craft.

“I think everybody is going to make their own decision on that what direction they’re going to go,” Lankford told Scott. “The president has something he is trying to accomplish: he is trying to get elected back to be the president of the United States. I’ve got something I’m trying to accomplish: it’s securing the nation and our borders right now. So he’s got his purposes right now, I’ve got mine.”

A plan for the border is a nonpartisan issue for most Americans, who “just want a secure border,” Lankford said.

He called on his colleagues to read the bill thoroughly and work to come to an agreement.

“We’re going to find out actually in the days ahead as members look at it read it review it as we determine if we’re going to amend it or walk away from it. Everybody has got to be able to make their decisions on that, but it’s open now to conversation and the American people and members of Congress can look at it and say ‘let’s do something or let’s do nothing’ — and we’ve got to figure that out right now.”

On the CBS News program “Face the Nation” Sunday, Sinema said she thinks Johnson can be “persuaded” to support the bill after he has had ample opportunity to understand the bill, ask question and watch the debate in the Senate.

Sinema said change is needed to address a “national security threat” at the southern border.

“While the current administration does bear responsibility for mishandling the border, we have to give new legal tools to the administration and hold them accountable to implement them in order to stop this crisis,” she said.

Ahead of the bill’s text release, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Sunday expressed his support for the border package — and said he and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are in lock step.

“Leader McConnell and I, who disagree on many issues, have never worked so closely together on legislation as we did on this, because we both realize the gravity of the situation and how important passage of this legislation is,” Schumer said to reporters.

He said it’s the time for lawmakers to come together to support this important plan for border security.

“We cannot let politics get in the way of passing this legislation,” Schumer said. “The senators have to drown out the noise of politics and politicians who tell them not to vote for this bill for political purposes.”

ABC News’ Lalee Ibssa and Soorin Kim contributed to this report.

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