Biden Blames Trump as Border Deal Collapses

Biden Blames Trump as Border Deal Collapses

Biden called on Republicans to "show some spine."
By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Good Tuesday evening. A federal appeals court ruled unanimously today that Donald Trump can stand trial on charges that he plotted to overturn his loss in the 2020 election, thoroughly rejecting the former president’s sweeping claims of immunity from prosecution.

Over in Congress, there was action aplenty, though very little looks likely to be accomplished. A House Republican push to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas just failed 214-216, and a bill to provide a standalone $17.6 billion in aid to Israel was also voted down amid qualms from both Republicans and Democrats. Meanwhile, the Senate’s border deal looks to be dead ahead of a planned procedural vote tomorrow.

Here’s the latest.

Biden Blames Trump as Border Deal Collapses

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 voted Tuesday evening on a separate Republican package of $17.6 billion in aid for Israel. The bill failed to win the two-thirds majority it needed to pass under the suspension of the rules. It was 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.

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.

Johnson might bring the bill up again, but 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.

Yellen Touts ‘Historic Recovery,’ Says Path to Fiscal Sustainability ‘Critically Important’

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told a House oversight panel Tuesday that the Biden administration has driven an "historic recovery" from the pandemic but warned that it’s "critically important" that the United States get on a fiscally sustainable path. She said deficits need to come down in order to get there, though she also noted that she does not believe the federal budget needs to be balanced to be sustainable.

Yellen argued that President Joe Biden’s budget and tax proposals, which have no chance of being adopted wholesale by Congress, would help "guarantee that we are on a fiscally sustainable path."

In a bit of political gamesmanship, Yellen was asked by Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri about former Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow’s recent admission that his prediction of an economic downturn under President Joe Biden was wrong. "Mea culpa," Kudlow said on Fox Business last week. "I was wrong about the slowdown and the recession. So was the entire forecasting fraternity."

Cleaver used that admission to lob a softball at Yellen. "Do you agree with Mr. Kudlow that the U.S. economy is headed in the right direction?" he asked.

"I absolutely believe it’s headed in the right direction," Yellen said. "Our growth is extremely strong. The labor market is at least as strong as it was prior to the pandemic. It’s been 50 years since we’ve had a string of unemployment rates this long under 4 percent. And job creation remains utterly robust."

Republican Rep. Andy Barr of Kentucky pushed back on Yellen’s economic optimism. "I wouldn’t presume to speak for Larry Kudlow, but I do think he would agree with me that asking Americans to feel good about Bidenomics is like asking them to smile during a root canal," he said. "The discomfort is just too hard to ignore."

Yellen also told the House Financial Services Committee that she does have some concerns about the commercial real estate market, where some cities have seen an increase in empty office space and property owners could be squeezed by a combination of high vacancy rates and higher interest rates.

Yellen said bank regulators are "quite focused" on the issue. "I’m concerned," she said. "I believe it’s manageable, although there may be some institutions that are quite stressed by this problem."

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