The bipartisan border security bill is finally out, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has scheduled the first procedural vote for Wednesday.

But the bill immediately ran into a wall of opposition from top House Republicans and some senators in both parties.

Senators released the bill - which would be the most significant immigration package in decades if it passed - last night after months of negotiations between Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). Republicans had demanded policy changes to make it harder for migrants to enter the United States in exchange for supporting more aid to Ukraine, along with military aid for Israel and Taiwan and humanitarian aid for Gaza.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has been under tremendous pressure from his fractured and unruly conference to reject it, especially since former president Donald Trump started pushing for the bill to fail. Members on the right immediately derided the bill, calling it "a sell-out," "TRASH," an "amnesty bill" and a "complete betrayal.

Republican leadership followed suit, all but killing the bill’s chances in the House. 

  • "If this bill reaches the House, it will be dead on arrival," Johnson wrote on X on Sunday, claiming it was "even worse than we expected."
  • Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), the No. 4 House Republican, slammed the bill as "an absolute non-starter."
  • "Let me be clear: The Senate Border Bill will NOT receive a vote in the House," Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) wrote on X

"I’m a little confused," Lankford shot back in a briefing with reporters. "I have to be able to get with the speaker’s team on that to be able to find out what part would be 'worse’ than what we had expected based on the actual text."

"If the House wants to be able to take it up and amend it that is completely within the right of the House to be able to do that," he said in an interview with The Early.

Lankford is also going to have to work to convince senators in his own conference, some of whom have come out against it, including Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who called it a joke, and Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), who called it "atrocious." Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), whose name is being floated as a potential Trump vice-presidential pick because of her early endorsement of him, put out a statement of opposition minutes after the text was released. 

"I, for one, think it is a mistake to send this bill to the House without a majority of the Republican conference," Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who was supportive of the border negotiations, told our colleague Liz Goodwin and Leigh Ann.

Schumer called the bill "one of the most necessary and important pieces of legislation Congress has put forward in years." President Biden said he strongly supported it.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a top supporter of sending more aid to Ukraine, signaled support for the deal Sunday, but few other Republicans backed it publicly. (The $118 billion bill includes $14 billion for Israel and $60 billion for Ukraine.)

"The Senate must carefully consider the opportunity in front of us and prepare to act," McConnell said.

What’s in the bill

The 370-page bill includes a variety of changes to the immigration system.

It would raise "the standard for migrants to qualify to apply for asylum and increases the capacity for detaining them," Liz and Leigh Ann write.

  • It "also encourages quicker resolutions to asylum cases at the border and creates a new expedited removal authority to speedily remove migrants who don’t qualify for asylum."
  • "The bill includes a trigger mechanism that would allow the border to be effectively shut down to migrants if crossings have been particularly high for several days in a row. (A number of migrants would still be able to qualify for asylum at ports of entry.)"
  • "That 'border emergency’ provision, which expires in three years, would automatically kick in when crossings reached 5,000 per day for several days, but a president could choose to use the tool at a lower number, 4,000 per day. The legislation also scales back the Biden administration’s use of parole at the ports of entry and provides for the hiring of new Border Patrol and asylum officers."

"This is a very comprehensive attempt to deal with the reality we are seeing today at the border," Theresa Cardinal Brown, senior adviser for immigration and border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, wrote in an email to The Early after reviewing the text. "It tries to balance a lot of things while managing the system a lot better. It puts the processes in the hands of the experts — asylum officers — a?nd hopefully that means getting Border Patrol back to doing its job of protecting the border from threats."

Some Republican lawmakers have focused their attacks on the threshold of 5,000 migrants per day, arguing that the bill would effectively greenlight that many unauthorized arrivals. Lankford called the idea "absurd and untrue" on Sunday night.

Doris Meissner, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute who led the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service during the Clinton administration, said setting the threshold at 5,000 per day was rooted in the capabilities of the current immigration system.

The system "can capably process 5,000 people a day and make decisions on [which migrants] should pass the screening to be able to come into the country and finish a claim for asylum and also screen out those who are ineligible," Meissner said.

Attacks from both sides

Republicans aren’t the only ones deriding the bill.

While it would enact many policy changes favored by Republicans and doesn’t include top Democratic immigration priorities such as the Dream Act, most Senate Democrats are expected to support it.

But even a handful of Democratic defections could matter. As the number of Democratic senators who support the bill falls, more Republicans would need to vote for it to overcome a filibuster.

Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) said in an interview Sunday night that he could not support it and would lobby his colleagues against it. He argued the bill would create a system similar to Title 42, the pandemic-era policy that restricted immigration for health reasons.

  • "The numbers were clear. The policy did not work," Padilla said. "So to try to return to a similar policy makes no sense to me."

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) was even more scathing.

"If these changes were being considered under Trump, Democrats would be in outrage, but because we want to win an election Latinos and immigrants now find themselves on the altar of sacrifice," Menendez said in a statement.

House strategy

Meanwhile, in an attempt to undercut the Senate’s border package, Johnson released a separate bill over the weekend that would provide $14 billion for Israel with no strings attached — a shift after the House passed a similar bill in November that also included cuts to IRS funding. The earlier bill went nowhere in the Senate.

But Johnson’s new effort might backfire.

The House Freedom Caucus came out against Johnson’s bill on Sunday because it is not paid for. The hard-right caucus said Johnson was "reversing course" by not requiring the Israel funding to be offset. 

Johnson’s bill would have to be passed by suspending the rules of the House, which requires the support of two-thirds of lawmakers, including many Democrats. And that looks like a problem for its chances after House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) denounced the bill as "a cynical attempt to undermine the Senate’s bipartisan effort."