A senior aide to House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) told a group of Senate Republican chiefs of staff Thursday that a border security deal that is being put together with Democrats in the Senate has no chance of passing the House, underscoring what is becoming more and more apparent to GOP senators.
Scalise’s chief of staff, Brett Horton, emphasized that if the Senate bill includes some of the details that have leaked to the public, such as expedited work permits or enhanced expulsion authority that would only kick in after migrant border crossings exceed 5,000 people a day, it won’t have any chance of passing the House.
A person familiar with his comments noted that Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and Scalise have said publicly in recent days that if some of the proposals being publicly reported end up in the final Senate bill, then it’s dead on arrival.
The private, state-level warning, however, is a wake-up call to many senators who have not closely followed what House GOP leaders have said about the unfolding Senate negotiations on Ukraine funding and border security.
“Scalise’s chief got up and the first thing he said was, ‘This border bill, if you send it to us, is dead on arrival. Dead.’ He said, ‘I just want to be clear about that, we will not take it up, we will not vote on it. It is dead. End of discussion,’” said a Senate Republican source familiar with the comments.
“So that sent a message,” the source said.
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Two other Senate Republican sources confirmed that that House GOP staffer bluntly warned the Senate bill isn’t going anywhere in the House.
“He said, ‘If it comes over in the form that we’ve seen, we won’t even put it on the floor,’” said a second source, confirming the pointed message from the House GOP leadership.
Republican senators briefed on the details of the package say that House GOP leaders are not going to change their mind once the bill is made public in its entirety.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), an outspoken critic of the Senate bill, said Senate leadership staff confirmed that the president would not get enhanced expulsion authority until there are more than 5,000 daily migrant crossings.
“That’s how my staff was briefed from leadership staff,” he said. “It could normalize somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000” migrants being allowed into the country on a daily basis.
“I think it could be used in court challenges [against] a president serious about securing the border,” he warned.
He worries the bill might end up tying a future Republican president’s hands by allowing immigration activists to argue that presidents would have limited deportation authority as long as fewer than 4,000 people cross the border per day.
The bleak prospects for a Ukraine and border security package in the House are not changing the strategy of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who plan to move forward with the Senate bill.
Republican senators said McConnell told them at a lunch meeting Thursday that he favors moving forward with a bill that combines Ukraine funding and border security reforms — two issues that Republican lawmakers have demanded for months be paired together.
“We’re still working. I was not instructed by the leader to be able to stop working on this,” said Sen. James Lankford (Okla.), the lead Republican negotiator working on the border security reforms.
Lankford said former President Trump would be glad to have expanded authorities included in the Senate bill to expel migrants if he is reelected to the Oval Office.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who has been heavily involved in the negotiations, told reporters after Thursday’s lunch meeting that McConnell “is committed to the framework as we have it today.”
Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.), whose staff has briefed Senate Republican offices on the details of the package, said Senate leaders aren’t giving up on the bill, despite the lack of a path for getting it through the House.
Asked if the bill is on life support, Thune acknowledged: “We’re at a critical moment.”
“We’ve got to drive hard to get this done, and if we can’t get there, we’ll go to Plan B. But I think for now, at least, there are still attempts being made to try and reach a conclusion that would satisfy a lot of Republicans,” he said.