Senate Prepares for Legislation: Will Speaker Johnson Bring It to a Vote?

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  • Source: Wayne Dupree
  • 01/30/2024
The Senate is preparing to proceed with legislation, despite Speaker Mike Johnson's warning that it is unlikely to pass in the lower chamber. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and his allies are not disregarding Johnson, but they are confident that if the legislation receives strong Republican support in the Senate, Johnson will face significant pressure to bring it up for a vote in the lower chamber.

According to senior aides, the legislation is anticipated to be brought to the Senate floor by the end of next week. However, leaders have not yet made an official announcement regarding the timing. If Johnson fails to take action on the bill, House Republicans could face the risk of being held responsible for leaving Ukraine unsupported and damaging America's credibility with its allies. They risked facing criticism from Democrats for obstructing reforms aimed at significantly reducing the influx of migrants through the southern border.

I believe the bill has a good chance of passing the Senate due to the extensive efforts put in by several Senate Republicans over the past four to five months. In 2013, many Senate Republicans were present when we achieved a significant milestone of 68 votes for bipartisan immigration reform. However, despite this achievement, the reform ultimately met its demise in the House. According to Jonathan Kott, a Democratic strategist and former Senate aide, there are still individuals who recognize the importance of addressing the problem and are committed to finding a solution, regardless of the actions taken by Donald Trump.

Back in the day, a significant number of Republican senators supported an extensive immigration reform bill. This legislation aimed to bolster border security by hiring more border patrol agents and constructing hundreds of miles of fencing. However, despite the support it garnered, the bill unfortunately never made it to the floor of the GOP-controlled House. During that period, President Obama held the position of the President.

Former President Trump has further complicated Johnson's situation by urging Republicans to oppose the bill, claiming it would be a political win for the Radical Left Democrats.

There is a potential risk. According to Scott Jennings, a Republican strategist who has advised McConnell's past campaigns, if Republicans claim that the reason for rejecting this deal is purely political, it could pose a significant political risk.

Jennings mentioned the challenge faced by Republicans who are in favor of the border security deal, as they find it difficult to justify their support to fellow GOP critics due to the unavailability of the complete text.

However, McConnell and his top deputy, Senate GOP Whip John Thune (S.D.), believe that Democrats have made significant concessions on reforming asylum law. They see this as a rare chance to strengthen the nation's immigration laws, which may not be possible if Republicans regain control of the White House and Senate.

They argue that with unified GOP control of Washington, Democrats would obstruct any reforms in the Senate, where most bills require 60 votes to pass.

McConnell and his allies are emphasizing the importance of demonstrating effective governance to voters. They believe that funding the war in Ukraine and making significant progress in tightening border security would be key in achieving this goal.

"If we fail to complete this task, it will not be accomplished during a Trump administration." Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who has been involved in the talks, cautioned that we will not have the votes.

"By diligently completing our tasks and gaining the support of influential organizations such as the Border Patrol Council, engaging with law enforcement, and consulting with Texas officials, we can present Speaker Johnson with a compelling case to advance our cause," he expressed. Jennings, the GOP strategist, mentioned that if the bill passes, Trump could potentially claim political credit for bringing attention to the issue of border security during his presidency.

Furthermore, he mentioned that House Republicans have the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to govern following a period of instability and disorder. This includes the instances when Congress came close to a national default in June, experienced a government shutdown in September, and faced internal conflicts after removing former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) from his position.

Highlighting the importance of demonstrating responsible governance, achieving a significant victory becomes all the more meaningful. We only have control over one of the two chambers. According to him, if the Republican Party manages to achieve policy movement despite having limited control, it would be considered a victory.

McConnell, on the other hand, is facing resistance from Senate conservatives who claim that he is putting Johnson in a difficult situation by proceeding with a Ukraine funding bill that incorporates border security reforms negotiated by Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and White House officials.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) questioned the reasoning behind initiating a vote that enjoys Democratic support and only a few Republican backers, knowing that it has no chance of getting approved by the House. The primary motive seems to be providing Democrats with a convenient political excuse: "We would have ensured border security, but those troublesome House Republicans prevented us." This bill highlights the ongoing clash between Senate Republican leadership and House Republican leadership.

McConnell and his allies have faced challenges in countering conservatives' criticisms of the border deal due to the undisclosed specifics of the bill.   Over the weekend, Murphy, the lead Democratic negotiator, revealed that senators have reached an agreement on the border security provisions. They are currently finalizing the text of the intricate legislation. 

During a Senate GOP conference meeting last week, McConnell suggested the possibility of removing the border security provisions from Ukraine funding. However, he did not formally propose this option and later changed his stance during a Thursday lunch. Some of his GOP colleagues, who support a border deal, expressed their dissatisfaction with the idea of separating these issues.

A Republican senator, speaking on the condition of anonymity, expressed concerns about the potential challenges faced by Senator Johnson if he were to bring a border security deal to the House floor. The senator suggested that this could potentially jeopardize Johnson's position and put his job at risk.

I believe that this individual holds significant sway within the House, especially when it comes to their relationship with Johnson. Trump's strong stance on this issue really puts Johnson in a difficult position. The senator expressed doubt regarding Johnson's ability to pass this. 


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