Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell waved a rhetorical white flag Tuesday, admitting the bipartisan supplemental spending package was doomed fewer than 48 hours after its text was revealed.
“It’s been made pretty clear to us by the [House] speaker [Mike Johnson] that it will not become law,” the 81-year-old Kentuckian bluntly conceded to reporters.
“It looks to me and to most our members as if we have no real chance here to make a law,” McConnell added.
The Republican leader bowed to political reality after a two-day outcry among conservatives over the $118 billion measure — with McConnell lieutenants Steve Daines of Montana and John Barrasso of Wyoming among those expressing opposition on the Senate side and House GOP leadership bluntly stating Monday that taking up the legislation would be a “waste of time.”
The proposal, which is still set for a Senate procedural vote Wednesday, set aside $20 billion for border security, and included $650 million for border wall construction and a Title 42-style authority to shut down crossings when migrant encounters exceeded a 5,000-per-day average over a one-week period.
That number wasn’t low enough for border hawk Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who suggested Tuesday that McConnell should be jettisoned as majority leader over the ordeal.
“I followed the instructions of my conference,” a visibly agitated McConnell told reporters. “It was actually my side that wanted to tackle the border. We started it.
“Obviously with a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate, our negotiators had to deal with them.”
McConnell added that GOP negotiator James Lankford of Oklahoma had done a “remarkable job” in his sitdowns with with Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.)
“To pick off the Border Council, which supported President Trump, certainly underscores that it was a quality product,” the minority leader said, referencing the Border Patrol union’s endorsement. “Things have changed over the last four months.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) insisted that “this is not the last Republicans have heard from us” on the issue.
“We’re going to keep at it. We will have a vote tomorrow,” said the Democratic leader. “We will move further forward. Stay tuned.”
The moribund bill also included $60 billion in military assistance for Ukraine, $14 billion in military aid for Israel and $10 billion in humanitarian aid for Gaza, the West Bank and other war-torn regions, and McConnell expressed optimism Thursday that Congress could approve those measures separately.
“There are other parts of this supplemental that are extremely important as well,” the Republican leader said. “Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan — we still, in my view, ought to tackle the rest of it, because it’s important. Not that the border isn’t important, but we can’t get an outcome. So, that’s where I think we ought to head, and it’s up to Senator Schumer how to decide how to repackage this, if in fact we don’t go on to it.”
At the White House, a visibly frustrated President Biden — who enjoyed a Democratic House and Senate for the first two years of his term — accused former President Donald Trump of coaxing Capitol Hill Republicans to oppose the deal, saying “Donald Trump told them that they need to preserve chaos at the border. I think that’s so unfortunate for this entire country.”
“If the bill fails, I want to be absolutely clear about something,” the 81-year-old added. “The American people are going to know why it failed. I’ll be taking this issue to the country and the voters are going to know.”
“What has happened here over the last four months is outrageous,” an irate Murphy fumed to reporters. “There used to be a difference between the Senate Republican Caucus and the House Republican caucus.”
“There is no difference anymore. They are just as dysfunctional. They are just as tied to President Trump.”