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Border bill fails as Republicans fight Democrats – and themselves

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Even by Washington standards, it was a stunningly quick implosion.

The bipartisan border security bill unveiled in the Senate at the start of this week was the product of months of negotiations. Almost miraculously, it garnered praise from both Border Patrol agents and blue city mayors, from conservative and liberal newspaper editorial boards.

Why We Wrote This

Election-year partisanship often makes it hard to pass major legislation, but a U.S. Senate vote today stood out. After months of pursuing one of their top priorities, Republicans backtracked to preserve a campaign weapon against Democrats.

Originally, Republicans had been the ones pushing for border security to be addressed as part of a larger foreign aid package that included billions for Israel and Ukraine.

But after former President Donald Trump expressed opposition to the bill, Republicans began denouncing it even before the text was released. On Wednesday it was dead, failing in the Senate 49-50.

The bill followed an arc that’s emblematic of this moment in Washington – in which compromise is seen as surrender, and maintaining a political vulnerability for the opposition is considered more valuable than a policy win.

In some ways, it’s the impact of negative polarization playing out in Congress. With both parties internally divided on a host of big issues and holding just razor-thin majorities in one chamber or the other, the primary force for party unity these days increasingly seems to be opposition to the other side.

Even by Washington standards, it was a stunningly quick implosion.

The bipartisan border security bill unveiled in the Senate at the start of this week was the product of months of negotiations. Almost miraculously, it garnered praise from both Border Patrol agents and blue city mayors, and from conservative and liberal newspaper editorial boards alike.

Originally, Republicans had been the ones pushing for border security to be addressed as part of a larger foreign aid package that included billions for Israel and Ukraine, and the resulting deal delivered on some longtime GOP goals.

Why We Wrote This

Election-year partisanship often makes it hard to pass major legislation, but a U.S. Senate vote today stood out. After months of pursuing one of their top priorities, Republicans backtracked to preserve a campaign weapon against Democrats.

But after former President Donald Trump expressed opposition to the bill, Republicans began denouncing it even before the text was released. By Wednesday afternoon, it was officially dead, failing in the Senate 49-50 with only four Republicans voting to advance. Senators are now considering whether to advance the rest of the package, known as the national security supplemental, ironically leaving lawmakers back where they started several months ago, before Republicans requested that new border policy be tied to the aid.

The swift fall of yet another piece of bipartisan legislation, in this case on an issue that many Americans now see as the country’s top problem, was clearly frustrating to some lawmakers. But it followed an arc that’s become emblematic of this moment in Washington, in which compromise is seen as surrender, and maintaining a political vulnerability for the opposition is considered more valuable than a policy win. 

In some ways, it’s the impact of negative polarization playing out in Congress. With both parties internally divided on a host of big issues and holding just razor-thin majorities in one chamber or the other, the primary force for party unity these days increasingly seems to be opposition to the other side.  



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