What to Know About the New Border Bill

Senate bill sets migrant thresholds for closing the border, as House speaker calls it 'dead on arrival'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 5, 2024 6:43 AM CST
Bill Shuts Border if Migrant Number Hits 5K a Day
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to the chamber at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Senate leaders released their long-awaited immigration proposal Sunday, one that couples new border laws with aid to Ukraine ($60 billion) and Israel ($14 billion). It marks the start of what will be a busy, politically fraught week in both the House and Senate on the issue.

  • Border: The New York Times has a breakdown of what's in the Senate bill. One example: It includes a trigger that would close the border should the average number of migrants exceed 5,000 per day over the course of a week or 8,500 on a given day. (The number has exceeded 10,000 a day at times in recent months.) The president also would be authorized to close the border if the daily average was 4,000 over the course of a week.
  • McConnell test: The Hill sees this as a "career-defining test" for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who worked closely with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to craft the deal. The bill needs 60 votes to pass. In the Hill's view, McConnell needs to secure 18 to 25 votes on the GOP side of the aisle, which it thinks would be enough to pressure House Speaker Mike Johnson to take up the bill in the House.

  • 'Dead on arrival:' For now, Johnson tweeted the bill would be "dead on arrival" should it reach his chamber. "This bill is even worse than we expected, and won't come close to ending the border catastrophe the President has created," he wrote.
  • Internal war: Former President Trump opposes the Senate deal as too lax on the border, and conservatives such as Mike Lee and Ted Cruz hope to kill it in the Senate. Lee is even calling for "new leadership" for GOP senators. The release of the bill "was like pouring gasoline on the fire that is the Senate GOP internal war," per Punchbowl News.
  • More opposition: At the other end of the spectrum, Bernie Sanders and other progressives are expected to oppose the deal as too harsh. And on another front, Axios reports that "some senators tell us that failing to fund Ukraine could be a historic mistake, empowering Vladimir Putin."
  • House bill: The House separately will work on a bill this week that focuses only on aid to Israel, per Politico. It's possible the more sweeping Senate measure (should it pass) and the narrower House measure could end up in a conference committee to be reconciled.
(More US-Mexico border stories.)

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