Dem Lawmakers Ducked And Dodged When Asked Why They Didn’t Pass A Border Bill When They Controlled Congress

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Arjun Singh Contributor
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  • Democratic senators on Wednesday defended the absence of a comprehensive border security bill in the 117th Congress, when their party held majorities in both houses of Congress.
  • The senators blamed Republicans for rejecting previous bipartisan bills or insisted that they had to look at the situation at present and not the past.
  • “I’m looking forward. I have to deal with the reality of chaos at the border right now,” said Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Democratic senators offered evasive defenses for why they didn’t pass a comprehensive border security bill during the 117th Congress when their party controlled both of its houses.

On Tuesday, the Senate did not invoke cloture on a comprehensive bipartisan security bill, which included several border security measures that conservative Republicans deemed inadequate to combat illegal immigration. In response, Democratic senators either claimed that Republicans were unwilling to act on border security or that they weren’t focused on the past when asked by the Daily Caller News Foundation about why they didn’t propose a border security bill between 2021 and 2022 when they had majorities in both houses of Congress. (RELATED: Senate Democrats Block Resolution To Deem Border Crisis An ‘Invasion’)

During the 117th Congress, from Jan. 3, 2021 to Jan. 2, 2023, Democrats held a slim majority in the House and 50 seats in the Senate, against 50 Republican senators. Vice President Kamala Harris’ constitutional power to cast a tie-breaking vote gave Democrats a Senate majority, and she holds the record for having cast the most such votes in U.S. history.

“It was [brought up], I mean, I was the chairman of the of the authorizing subcommittee. We constantly tried to get more money to process asylum claims and Republicans stopped us at every turn,” said Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut to the DCNF in the basement of the U.S. Capitol. Murphy, who chairs the Senate’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, was the Democratic Caucus’ chief negotiator on the recent bipartisan bill, with Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma for the GOP and independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema a third participant.

Summary of the Emergency Na… by Daily Caller News Foundation

During the 117th Congress, the Democratic-led House of Representatives introduced a bill, H.R. 1177, known as the “U.S. Citizenship Act,” which would have reformed legal immigration and provided a pathway to U.S. citizenship for persons who had been illegally present in the country at the time. The bill also contained some provisions to reduce the arrears of asylum cases as well as combat the trafficking of narcotics across the border, though it was never passed by the House.

“Republicans would have killed it then,” said Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, when asked by the DCNF why the party didn’t propose a border security bill during the previous Congress. “We did it in 2013. Bipartisan Republicans killed it. We did it in 2018. Bipartisan Republicans killed it.”

Kaine refers to two previous attempts before the 117th Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill including border security measures. The first bill, in 2013, was negotiated by a bipartisan group of senators known as the “Gang of Eight” and passed the Senate by a vote of 68 yeas to 32 nays, though then-House Speaker John Boehner and the House Republican Conference declined to consider the bill.

The second, in 2018, was a substitute amendment crafted by Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota and independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, backed by Kaine and other Democrats, which would have granted lawful status and a pathway to citizenship for beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The amendment’s encompassing bill failed to receive cloture by a vote of 54 yeas to 45 nays, below the 60-yea requirement, after then-President Donald Trump threatened to veto it.

“I appreciate you bringing up previous congresses. When there was a bipartisan solution that was passed out of the Senate, it was a Republican speaker that refused to allow a vote on the floor even though there would have been more than 300 members that would have voted [for it],” Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico told the DCNF, referring to the same bills as Kaine. “This is the third occasion that Republicans have blocked comprehensive funding, including another time when President Trump was in office, and there was a bipartisan solution on the table. Republicans stopped that from happening as well.”

Some Democratic senators, when asked about the past, indicated that they were looking ahead to pass a bill resolving current problems. “I’m looking forward. I have to deal with the reality of chaos at the border right now. The numbers have been increasing to a point that they are simply, untenable and unsustainable. We need action now,” said Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

“We have a real issue at the border right now. We want to solve it plain and simple. It’s pretty, pretty straightforward,” said Democratic Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan.

Democratic Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, meanwhile, responded by attacking Republicans for their criticism of Lankford for negotiating the bill.

“I don’t…No, like…any kinds of that, talk to the Republicans. You want to talk about how dysfunction and terrible they’ve been on that. Now they’re own guy under the bus on and everything. It’s truly pathetic on that,” said Fetterman.

Following Wednesday’s defeat, the Senate will hold a vote on approving the most recent bill’s provisions authorizing military aid to Ukraine and Israel, without its border security components.

“Dems had both houses but we didn’t have a supermajority in the Senate. Republicans have killed border security provisions three times in the time I’ve been in the Senate,” Kaine noted. “They seem destined to want to keep doing it.”

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