US Senate Republicans mull border deal, House counterparts urge rejection

Lawmakers seek to avoid government shut down
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By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The lead Republican negotiator in a bipartisan U.S. Senate bill to toughen border security said his caucus should decide by Tuesday whether to open debate on the proposal, while his party's leaders in the House of Representatives urged scrapping the deal.

The Senate legislation, which would also provide aid to U.S. allies including Ukraine and Israel, is due for a procedural vote on Wednesday; 60 votes are needed to move forward with a floor debate.

Republicans are bitterly divided over the issue, with Donald Trump -- the frontrunner for his party's presidential nomination -- and House Speaker Mike Johnson loudly voicing opposition.

"If it's not supported on both sides of the aisle, then we shouldn't do this," Senator James Lankford told Reuters, the day after the bill was unveiled following months of negotiations in which he reached agreement with Democratic Senator Chris Murphy and independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema.

The bill includes $118 billion in new spending, including $60.06 billion to aid Ukraine as it fights a Russian invasion, $14.1 billion for Israel in its war against Hamas and about $20 billion for new enforcement efforts along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The legislation would give the government emergency powers to refuse entry to migrants crossing the border or to quickly expel those who had already entered the U.S.

The U.S.-Mexico border is a top issue for Republicans, with record numbers of migrants caught illegally crossing into the United States since Biden, a Democrat, took office in 2021.

The U.S. Border Patrol arrested about 2 million migrants at the border in fiscal-year 2023, similar to record-breaking totals during Biden's first two years in office.

If the bill were passed by the Senate and House, and signed into law by Biden, it would usher in the most significant changes in U.S. immigration and border policy in decades.

Asked during a visit to Las Vegas what was next for the border bill, Biden said "hopefully passage in the Senate."

But the top four House Republican leaders called for the Senate to nix the agreement on Monday.

"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," Johnson, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, No. 3 Republican Tom Emmer and House Republican conference chair Elise Stefanik said in a statement.

Lankford said he hopes the deal can attract strong bipartisan support in the Senate.

"It's important for the bill, period. I've said from the beginning, if it's not supported on both sides of the aisle, then we shouldn't do this," the Oklahoma Republican said.

He also called for the legislation to be open to floor amendments.

"Both the Senate and House should work their wills. People should have some ownership. I definitely think there are areas that could improve in the bill ... Let's start the conversation,” Lankford said.

The deal also faces opposition from progressive Democrats who are angry the measure does nothing to provide a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people who have lived in the U.S. for many years, including "Dreamer" immigrants who were brought in as children.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Additional reporting by Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Scott Malone, Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio)