With Republican and Democratic senators on the verge of reaching a rare bipartisan agreement on tough new border security, the fate of any agreement appeared in doubt Friday, with key Republicans expressing concern that former President Donald Trump might derail the whole thing.
House Speaker Mike Johnson on Friday continued pressure from Trump to delay anything less than a “perfect” deal until after the presidential election, saying the Senate bill might be “dead when it gets to the House anyway.”
Trump has made immigration one of his top campaign issues and has indicated he wants to deny Biden a win on the border before November.
“We need strong, robust and fundamentally ‘perfect’ borders, and unless we get that, we’re better off not making a deal.” Trump posted on his social media page on Thursday evening.
A few hours later, Johnson then sent a letter to his Republican colleagues in the House, obtained by ABC News, saying the Senate “seems unable to reach an agreement on the border.”
“If the rumors about the contents of the draft proposal were true, he would have been dead on arrival in the House anyway,” Johnson said.
Any bipartisan agreement reached by the Senate faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Johnson said he was in regular contact with Trump about border negotiations, and many hardliners were inclined to reject the deal even before Trump began being more vocal on the issue.
For months, Senate Republicans have been pressing Biden to reach a deal to address the flow of migration at the southern border, calling for policies that would curb his parole power and slow the flow of migrants into the country.
Biden said he was “ready to act” on border changes. Democrats insist they are willing to make major concessions to reach an agreement. For weeks, leaders in both parties have been insisting that the time is right to get the job done, with a Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a Democratic president.
But the political realities of Trump being close to winning the Republican presidential nomination after winning the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary are beginning to wreak havoc on Capitol Hill.
Many House Republicans, including Johnson, want a deal that appears to have been passed by House Republicans, a sweeping immigration overhaul that includes many proposals that Democrats have flatly rejected and could never pass in the Senate.
Despite Johnson’s comments and growing pessimism on the part of some Senate Republicans, bipartisan negotiators in the Senate continue to move forward toward a border settlement.
Asked about Trump’s comments and Johnson’s message at the White House news conference on Friday, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said House Republicans have a choice to make.
“They have to choose whether they want to solve a problem, or actually solve a problem like the Senate is trying to do in a bipartisan way. Or, you know, get in the way and score political points,” Jean-Pierre said. “This is a decision for House Republicans to make. Clearly, senators, both Republicans and Democrats, have made up their minds.”
“We’re still working,” Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, who is leading the bipartisan border negotiations on behalf of Senate Republicans, told reporters Thursday — before Trump’s social media post. I have not received instructions from the leader to be able to stop working on this.”
Senator Chris Murphy, the top Senate Democrat working on a deal, said on Thursday that negotiators will continue their work and will find out “in the next 24 to 48 hours” whether Trump’s tightening grip on Republicans will weaken negotiators. ‘ efforts.
“I’m not giving up. I think there’s still enough Republicans out there who are really sincere about solving the problem that we can get this done,” Murphy said. “I hope we don’t live in a world today where one person within the Republican Party has so much power that they can stop a bipartisan bill to try to give the president additional authority at the border to understand our immigration policy more logically.” “.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged the growing challenge posed by Trump’s desire to use the crisis at the southern border as a campaign talking point to pass legislation during the campaign year.
McConnell, in a closed-door meeting with Senate Republicans on Wednesday, acknowledged that — after Iowa and New Hampshire — “the politics have changed” regarding the ongoing negotiations, according to two sources familiar with McConnell’s comments.
While referring to Trump as “the nominee,” McConnell acknowledged that the Trump campaign has created a “stalemate” where Republicans in Congress “don’t want to do anything to undermine” Trump, sources told ABC News.
McConnell’s comments caused an uproar on Capitol Hill on Thursday, with some interpreting them to mean McConnell is backing away from the emerging border deal. These reports put Senate Republicans on the defensive.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said reports that McConnell said there was no path to passing border reform within the current political landscape, or that McConnell is rolling back borders, are “a misinterpretation of what he said.”
“I think there was a misinterpretation in this case,” Cornyn said. “What he was talking about was what he saw as kind of the political challenges going forward. He wasn’t waving the white flag on border security at all.”
During a closed-door lunch Thursday afternoon, McConnell sought to set the record straight. According to senators who attended the lunch, the leader reaffirmed his support for ongoing bipartisan negotiations on the border and Ukraine.
“I think he was saying out loud what a lot of people think about this,” Lankford said of McConnell.
“The uncertainty of the last few hours has been made clear to all of us,” Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney said. He added: “He fully supports the border bill, fully supports support for Ukraine, and will not allow the political considerations of any campaign to stand in the way of his support.”
Adding to the uncertainty is that Senate negotiators have not yet published the text of their proposals. It remains unclear when the text of the bill will be available, although senators at the negotiating table say they have largely completed their work and are waiting for specialists to assess the cost of the legislation.
Several Senate Republicans abstained from voting on the proposal until they had a chance to see it. But Trump’s weight prompted some to back away from the bill.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who recently endorsed Trump, posted on X that “the deal will allow Biden to pretend he’s doing something about the border but it won’t solve the problem.”
However, Trump’s stance has left some Republican senators, who say they have an obligation to work on the border crisis, upset.
“The fact that he’s going to tell Republican senators and members of Congress that he doesn’t want us to solve the border problem because he wants to blame Biden for it is really appalling,” Romney said Thursday.
Trump’s close ally, Senator Lindsey Graham, from the Republican Party, tried to appeal to the former president directly.
He added: “What we’re trying to do will help him if he becomes president. I will say to President Trump, if we can put this package together, the way I hope it will be done, you will have more tools to make it happen.” “Safe America more than ever,” he said.
Cornyn said the Senate still needs to seize the opportunity to act, regardless of politics.
He added: “Some said: Well, the case will end, and that means depriving President Trump of this case.” “I think that’s fiction,” Cornyn said. “It’s obviously an important vote, but we have work to do and we intend to do it.”
ABC News’ Mary Bruce, Rachel Scott, Lauren Peeler, Maryam Khan and Noah Meaney contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on abcnews.go.com