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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Bipartisan border deal falls through, highlighting polarization in Congress

The failure of this bill reveals politicians' inability to put the nation over political squabbles.

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The U.S. Capitol is pictured.

Senate politicians have been pushing to pass a national security bill that funds aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, but political gridlock in the House of Representatives is preventing it from passing swiftly. House Speaker Mike Johnson declared the bill “dead on arrival in the House, if it passed the Senate.

Difficulty reaching bipartisan agreement is frustratingly familiar in Congress. However, this specific legislation is unorthodox: The $118 billion bill not only provides funding for foreign affairs, but also increases border security along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Right-wing Republicans in Congress originally declared that they wouldn’t allow for a foreign aid bill to be passed unless provisions to secure the border were added. These provisions refer to additional enforcement on the southern U.S. border with Mexico. The blending of domestic border policy and foreign military aid is unorthodox on its own, but Biden’s appeasement of the GOP is unprecedented given the history of the Democrats’ stance on immigration policy.  

Biden is supporting a bill which would trigger the Homeland Security Department. Such a trigger would temporarily shut down the frontier after 5,000 migrants cross in a week. Biden will also have the authority to close the border if more than 4,000 migrants cross in seven days. There is even a provision dictating the government's requirement to process at least 1,400 migrants per day. This rigid approach seems like conservative policy, despite being outlined by a bipartisan group of senators.

This flies in the face of the commonplace progressive Democrats’ approach to border security, which typically focuses on immigration policy that involves pathways to citizenship, Dreamer initiatives and visas for family reunification. Liberal Democrats, unlike conservative Republicans, prioritize pathways to citizenship for migrants over restrictive immigration agendas. This bill takes shape only as a strategy to enforce policing, processing individuals and closing the border. The question is whether Biden is setting a new precedent or selling out by violating a long-standing liberal approach to immigration to prioritize the defense of democracy in Ukraine and Israel.

Biden may be in a bind since he is staking a large portion of his foreign policy legacy and reputation as president during the Russia-Ukraine war. Biden’s leadership during the war so far has been one of his biggest successes in foreign policy. By meeting the demands of the GOP in the national security bill, he is accepting their ultimatum in hopes of Congress swiftly passing a bipartisan agreement that will further Ukraine’s cause.

This is not to mention that Biden is acutely aware of the U.S.’ immigration crisis. Surges of migrants are coming to the border, many of whom are being bussed internally throughout the country. Tens of thousands of migrants are flooding the streets of cities like New York. City officials emphasize the consequential strain on resources, shelters and public schools.

The Biden administration recognizes the political liability of inaction. Tying the domestic and foreign conflicts together is a political tactic that allows him to address both issues with one sweeping approach in advance of the presidential election.

However, there has been a very powerful opposition, spearheaded by former President Donald Trump, that has swayed House Republicans against the bill. “As the leader of our party, there is zero chance I will support this horrible open borders betrayal of America. It’s not going to happen,” Trump said.

Trump is on his way to reclaim the position of GOP nominee and is wielding that influence to widen the gap of anti-deal sentiment already in the House. Republicans are unwilling to speak out against the potential leader of the Republican Party, and Trump’s denunciation of the bill is so formidable that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated, “there was no path forward for the bill.” This is the same Mitch McConnell who referred to the bill as a “quality product,” due to the endorsement of the National Border Patrol Council.

Congress’ indecision is demonstrative of a much larger issue. Politicians today are not interested in the well-being of citizens nor the security of the country. They act to serve their own agendas. In this case, it is clear that Republican lawmakers are backing Trump to ensure he maintains his campaign platform — of which border security is a major distinguishing factor between him and Biden. 

On Feb. 13, the Senate passed a $95 billion aid deal for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan without border measures. However, it still faces strong opposition in the House where Republicans aligned with Trump continue to oppose it.

As Tufts students, we should strive to reduce political polarization amongst ourselves and learn to listen respectfully and compromise after acknowledging all perspectives. If the American public can do this, perhaps Congress can too.