A Senate legislative proposal negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) providing $60 billion for Ukraine, $14.1 billion for Israel and $20 billion for additional border security failed by a vote of 49 in favor to 50 opposed on Feb. 7, 11 votes short of the 60 votes needed to advance the legislation.
The only Senate Republicans voting for the bill were Lankford and also Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah). Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voted no.
The prompt failure of the legislation, revealed publicly on Feb. 4, came after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) had been publicly lambasting the legislation for weeks on the basis that it would allow an average of 5,000 illegal immigrants into the country every day into the U.S.
⚡️US Senate blocks Ukraine, Israel aid bill.— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) February 7, 2024
A procedural vote on a bill that includes Ukraine aid, funds for Israel, and changes to U.S. border policy failed to get enough votes in the U.S. Senate on Feb. 7. https://t.co/wambROHtFQ
On X.com (formerly Twitter) on Jan. 25, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) described the legislation in the works as normalizing the current, unabated flow of illegal immigrants, stating, “This border bill is not designed to fix the problem. It normalizes 5,000 people a day coming in—that’s over 1.8 million a year. That’s called an invasion.”
At press conference on Jan. 24, Sen. Cruz called it a “stinking pile of crap.”
Sen. @tedcruz exposes the truth on the border bill battle: "It is a bill that Chuck Schumer wanted that is designed not to secure the border – not just not to secure the border, it is designed to make it worse." https://t.co/2LouM8b31V— Media Research Center (@theMRC) February 8, 2024
Proponents of the bill feigned ignorance, but as it turns out, Cruz was right. The bill set 4,000 illegal entries a day for discretionary application of the emergency border authority, and 5,000 a day for mandatory application, to then engage in Title 42-like expulsions. And the authority ceased if the level reached 3,000 a day (75 percent of the 4,000 a day discretionary level if the application occurred then), or at 3,750 a day (75 percent of the 5,000 a day mandatory application if it occurred on that basis), resuming normal asylum proceedings afterward.
Under the bill, Under Section 3301 of Division C, Title III of the legislation, entitled “Border Emergency Authority” for a Title 42-like emergency removal authority, the Secretary of Homeland Security would only have the power to activate the authority on a discretionary basis when there are at least 4,000 illegal entries a day: “The Secretary may activate the border emergency authority if, during a period of 7 consecutive calendar days, there is an average of 4,000 or more aliens who are encountered each day.”
That would have been 1.46 million illegal entries a year if the average held. Any fewer than that, and the President and Secretary of Homeland Security would not have the authority to close the border.
The border emergency would only be activated on a mandatory basis when the seven-day rolling average of illegal entries did not hit 5,000 illegal aliens a day: “The Secretary shall activate the border emergency authority if… during a period of 7 consecutive calendar days, there is an average of 5,000 or more aliens who are encountered each day; or… on any 1 calendar day, a combined total of 8,500 or more aliens are encountered.”
That’s a threshold of 1.85 million illegal entries a year if the average held. Any fewer, and an administration would have no obligation to do anything.
At the 3,000 a day level, under which the President would have been prohibited from closing the border, that would have guaranteed at least 1.1 million illegal entries every year, even if former President Donald Trump is elected this year. The bill was deliberately seeking to lock in 2025 and 2026, which would have allowed even greater numbers of illegal entries than in 2024.
Trump also spoke out against the legislation, warning his supporters on Truth Social on Feb. 5 that “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.”
House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) had also repeatedly declared the bill dead on arrival in the House, stating on X.com on Jan. 13, “Absolutely not.”
After the legislation was revealed publicly, Johnson repeated on X on Feb. 4: “If this bill reaches the House, it will be dead on arrival.”
And three days later, the bill was defeated soundly following public outcry against the provisions. An unsurprising outcome in hindsight, but without the leadership shown by Cruz, Trump and Johnson, there’s no telling what would have happened.
Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.