Biden Slams Trump as Border Deal Collapses

Biden Slams Trump as Border Deal Collapses

Reuters/Evelyn Hockstein

With Republican opposition to a $118 billion security bill growing, President Joe Biden on Tuesday called out former president Donald Trump for undermining the bipartisan agreement — and vowed to make sure that Americans know who to blame if the legislation fails to become law.

In remarks delivered at the White House, Biden described the bill as “a win for America” and said it provided “the most fair, humane reforms in our immigration system in a long time and the toughest set of reforms to secure the border ever,” as well as billions in aid for U.S. allies including Ukraine and Israel. He asked lawmakers to send the bill to his desk immediately for his signature.

Biden acknowledged, though, that the bill appears likely to fail amid growing hostility from Republicans, with Trump leading the opposition to the legislation. “All indications are this bill won’t even move forward to the Senate floor,” Biden said. “Why? A simple reason: Donald Trump. Because Donald Trump thinks it’s bad for him politically.”

Biden said the bill was shaped in no small part by Republican demands over the last four months. “And now it's here. And they're saying never mind,” Biden said. “Folks, we've got to move past toxic politics. It's time to stop playing games with the world waiting.”

Growing pressure: Noting that the bill has won the support of the Border Patrol union, the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Biden called on Republicans to “show some spine” and ignore Trump’s political maneuverings. “Republicans have to decide, who do they serve?” he said. “The American people or Donald Trump?”

Republican lawmakers have rejected their portrayal as spineless servants of the former president, but Trump’s influence has been clear enough. On Monday, Trump blasted the bill on social media. “Only a fool, or a Radical Left Democrat, would vote for this horrendous Border Bill,” he said. Trump has also rejected the fundamental structure of the bill, which ties border security and foreign aid together. “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!” he said.

Speaking about Sen. James Lankford, the lead Republican negotiator on the agreement, Trump said it “is a very bad bill for his career.” Trump also denied endorsing Lankford in the last election cycle, despite being on the record endorsing him in September 2022.

The pressure appears to be working, and Republican senators are expected to block the bill in a procedural vote Wednesday. Even Lankford — who said he hoped his fellow Republicans wouldn’t “intentionally” leave the border open for political gain — said he wasn’t sure if he would support his own legislation.

Lankford suggested that the bill perhaps could be salvaged if Republican lawmakers have time to rework or amend it. But Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who had previously supported the legislation, said Tuesday that the bill has “no real chance” of becoming law.

Some Republicans have made it clear that the presidential campaign is driving the resistance to the bill. Sen. John Cornyn indicated he’s willing to wait in the hope that lawmakers can work with Trump in 2025. “I'm pretty confident we can do better with a new president who actually will enforce the law,” he said. Sen. John Barrasso, chair of the Republican Conference, said in a statement that “Americans will turn to the upcoming election to end the border crisis.” And Rep. Jim Jordan, a Trump ally in the House, called for a “timeout” on border legislation. “Let’s say ‘timeout’ and then let the American people decide how we want to deal with this in November, when we have President Trump ... against President Biden. Let the country decide.”

Security politics: Biden vowed to pin the blame on Republicans if the bill fails to become law. “If the bill fails, I want to be absolutely clear about something: The American people are going to know why it failed,” Biden said. “I’ll be taking this issue to the country, and the voters are going to know that just at the moment we were going to secure the border and fund these other programs, Trump and the MAGA Republicans said no because they’re afraid of Donald Trump.”

Senate Democrats expressed shock at the speed at which the agreement has fallen apart. “I can't believe this is happening,” Sen. Chris Murphy, the lead Democratic negotiator, said Tuesday. “This is unbelievable.” Murphy suggested that the problem with the bill is that it would actually improve the situation at the border, and thereby deny Republicans a political weapon. “We crafted a bill that was too effective,” he said. “We reached a compromise that would actually fix the problem. As it turns out, Republicans don't want to fix the problem. They want to leave the issue of immigration open as a political agenda item to exploit.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer slammed Republicans for bailing out on an agreement that satisfied many of their demands. “After months of good faith negotiations, after months of giving Republicans many of the things they asked for, McConnell and the Republican conference are ready to kill the national security supplemental package, even with the border provisions they so fervently demanded.”

Looking for options: As an alternative to the Senate’s security bill, the House is voting Tuesday evening on a separate Republican package of $17.6 billion in aid for Israel. The bill is expected to fail. It has been criticized by conservatives for failing to provide any offsetting spending cuts and by some Democrats who reject the idea of voting on Israel aid separately, and the legislation is expected to have difficulty gaining the two-thirds majority it needs to pass under the suspension of the rules.

Calling the standalone Israel aid package “another cynical political maneuver,” the White House issued a statement Monday saying Biden would veto the bill given the opportunity. “The security of Israel should be sacred, not a political game,” the White House said. “The Administration strongly opposes this ploy which does nothing to secure the border, does nothing to help the people of Ukraine defend themselves against Putin’s aggression, fails to support the security of American synagogues, mosques, and vulnerable places of worship, and denies humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians, the majority of whom are women and children.”

There is also the possibility that lawmakers could craft a bill that addresses just the foreign aid elements of the security package to assist U.S. allies. Johnson has hinted at that option, and on Tuesday Indiana Republican Sen. Todd Young said that while he will oppose the bipartisan security bill, he wants Congress to “provide vital security assistance to Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan.”

The bottom line: The bipartisan border deal is in deep trouble, putting funding for both border changes and aid to key allies in jeopardy. With the Senate scheduled to leave town for a two-week break on Friday, the prospects for creating a viable alternative in the near term appear to be weak at best.