It's Crunch Time for a Border Deal

It's Crunch Time for a Border Deal

McConnell has been pressing for a deal.
By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Monday, January 22, 2024

Happy Monday! The political world will be focused on New Hampshire tomorrow for what may be a dramatically undramatic first-in-the-nation primary that will officially start a presidential nominating contest that seems to already be over. But hey, get out there and vote! Down in Washington, D.C., the House is out, but this may be the decisive week for action or inaction on a Senate deal pairing border and immigration reforms with aid to Ukraine and Israel.

Here's a quick rundown of what’s ahead.

A Critical Week for Border-Ukraine Dealmakers

Senate negotiators say they are closing in on a high-stakes and politically thorny package of border security measures and emergency foreign aid, but some high hurdles remain — including some key questions about the spending that a deal would entail.

“Our work is largely done,” Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, the lead Democratic negotiator, told reporters. “The conversation has really moved over to Appropriations. So, there's no reason why we couldn't begin consideration this week.”

While Murphy sounded optimistic and Senate leaders had similarly expressed hopes in recent days that an agreement could be brought to a vote this week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday that a handful of issues must still be settled and “it’s certainly not a done deal yet.” And Sen. James Lankford, the lead Republican negotiator, told CNN that action this week may not happen. “Everybody’s got to have several days to be able to go through it,” Lankford said. “It’s gonna depend on final timing – it would be quite a push to be able to get it out this week.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been encouraging his members to back a deal, on Monday called the plan being hammered out “the most substantial border security policy in 30 years” and said it is urgently needed. “The entire world understands what’s at stake here in the Senate in the coming weeks,” he said. “America’s national security begins with securing and maintaining our borders. It’s a matter of basic sovereignty. But we’re also a global superpower with global responsibilities. We’re facing serious linked challenges on multiple fronts. … The West’s leading power still has to behave like one and continue investing in our own strength.”

Plenty of hurdles remain, though. The Senate dealmakers reportedly have yet to reach agreement on the issue of humanitarian parole, the administration’s authority to allow temporary entry into the country to certain migrants who wouldn’t otherwise be eligible to be here. Republicans are pressing to limit that power, while the White House has pushed to maintain it.

Even if that and other details can be resolved, a Senate deal may languish in the Republican-controlled House.

While McConnell has been fervently supportive of aid to Ukraine and border security changes, his House counterpart, Speaker Mike Johnson, has indicated that any Senate deal would be dead on arrival in his chamber, where Republicans are largely skeptical of sending additional assistance to Kyiv and conservatives are insisting on their package of more restrictive border policies. Oh, and then there’s former president Donald Trump, who is undermining an agreement and urging Johnson to only accept a deal that is “PERFECT ON THE BORDER.”

The bottom line: There are plenty of reasons why Congress has failed to pass major immigration reform for decades and plenty of factors that could complicate the push for a border deal now. The coming days will be critical.

Number of the Day: 5

The Washington Post’s Paul Kane noted in a piece over the weekend that House lawmakers aren’t due back to the capital until the night of January 29 and have a pretty light schedule over the coming weeks, even as they just set critical funding deadlines for March 1 and March 8:

“Exempting half-days that are scheduled for traveling into or out of Washington, the House has only five full legislative days on its calendar before lawmakers leave Feb. 16 for what is slated to be an almost two-week break from the Capitol.
“The original schedule had lawmakers returning the night of March 5, at which point the House would have already missed the first deadline for funding 20 percent of the government. On Friday, House GOP leaders announced that they would bring members back to the Capitol a few days early, so they can approve something by the March 1 deadline.”

The schedule ahead means that another stopgap spending bill might be needed. That would be the fourth since October.

Bipartisan Tax Proposal Would Benefit Lowest and Highest-Income Households Most: Analysis

The proposed tax package unveiled last week by Republican House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith and Democratic Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden would provide outsized benefits to two groups at opposite ends of the income spectrum: the poorest 20% of households and the wealthiest 1%.

The Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024 would boost the value of the child tax credit, helping low-income households with children. It would also provide more generous tax breaks for corporate research and development and equipment purchases, boosting incomes among shareholders at the top of the income ladder.

According to a distributional analysis by the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, the bottom 20% of households (below $29,800 per year) would see an after-tax increase in income of $60 on average on their 2023 tax returns, or 0.3% more; that boost would rise to about $90 by 2025, or 0.5% more.

At the high end, the top 1% (incomes above $980,000 per year) would see an average boost of $9,500, or 0.5%, in 2023. That benefit would decrease to about 0.3% on average by 2025, due to timing issues associated with the use of business tax credits.


Send your feedback to And please encourage your friends to sign up here for their own copy of this newsletter.

Fiscal News Roundup

Views and Analysis