What to Know in Washington: Border Deal Fail Hardens Future Try

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The rapid collapse of a painstakingly negotiated Senate border deal has lawmakers and advocates fretting about prospects for any future immigration talks and scrambling to assess whether any of it can be salvaged.

Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) spent the past four months tackling one of the most fraught areas of US domestic policy and landed on a complex compromise that aimed to bolster border enforcement and speed up asylum reviews.

Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), Lankford’s wife Cindy Lankford, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) walk down a stairwell near the Senate Chambers yesterday.

It’s one of the most conservative bipartisan immigration deals ever reached on Capitol Hill, but Donald Trump and GOP lawmakers torpedoed the bill within days of its release, decrying provisions they deemed as too weak.

The deal would have overhauled the asylum process in the US, sped up decisions and deportations, and provided the executive branch sweeping new authority to turn away migrants whenever the border is considered overwhelmed. It also contained some provisions for legal immigration but didn’t include key progressive priorities, such as a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

The collapse, the latest in the annals of doomed immigration negotiations, is a cautionary tale for any lawmakers who hope to try their hands at brokering a deal.

“I was more optimistic than I should have been in retrospect,” Murphy said in an interview yesterday, about two hours before the Senate formally voted down the deal. Ellen M. Gilmer looks ahead to the fallout.

New military assistance to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan was included in the blocked border deal. While Senate Democratic leaders plan to try to pass the aid package without the border enforcement agreement, that approach faces daunting prospects in the House, where Republican leaders insist migration policy be addressed first.

The Senate last night put off a vote on a measure that would provide assistance to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. “We will recess until tomorrow and give our Republican colleagues the night to figure themselves out,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. Read more.


  • President Joe Biden will address the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference in Leesburg, Va. at 4 p.m.
  • Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds a press briefing at 1:30 p.m.


  • Senators meet at noon to vote on a foreign aid supplemental spending bill.
  • The House is out until next week.
  • For the full detailed agenda read BGOV’s Congress Tracker.

Also Happening on the Hill

Photographer: Kent Nishimura/Bloomberg
Lankford faced a rebuke from Republican activists in Oklahoma over the bipartisan border package.

REPUBLICAN SENATORS have faced a flurry of censures from their state parties over the course of the Biden administration, illustrating the increasing base pressure centrist lawmakers face as Washington tries to squeeze more bipartisan laws out of Congress before the 2024 election. Read more.

THE CEOS of Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck will testify today at a Senate hearing about prescription drug prices. Read more.

  • Merck CEO Robert Davis said middlemen that negotiate drug purchases for US companies and insurers make more money from high list prices, calling for legislation to lower costs for patients and payers. Read more.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) plans to argue during today’s Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing that Biden’s pause on new liquefied natural gas export approvals is unjustified and should be “reversed immediately” if a study of the shipments is only beginning now. Read more.

  • The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee is also probing the LNG pause. In a letter sent yesterday to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, lawmakers asked why the department’s study on how LNG shipments affect climate change, the economy, and national security is needed and requested a briefing from the agency by March 1. Read more.

ATTORNEY GENERAL MERRICK GARLAND said he is committed to making as much of the report submitted by Special Counsel Robert Hur regarding Biden’s handling of classified documents public as possible. Read more.

Defense and Foreign Affairs

Photographer: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg
Biden walks on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One in Washington, DC, on Wednesday.

BIDEN expressed concern to donors that Ukraine’s allies were stepping back from their support for the country at a critical time in its war to repel Russia’s invasion. Read more.

  • Tucker Carlson will release his interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin at 6 p.m. on TuckerCarlson.com, he said in an Instagram post. Read more.

ISRAEL and the US offered conflicting interpretations of Hamas’s response to a proposal to pause fighting and release dozens of hostages, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeming to reject it out of hand and Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying it opened space for a deal. Read more.

THE US conducted an airstrike that killed the commander of an Iran-backed militia in Iraq, as the Biden administration pressed ahead with its campaign to target those responsible for the killing of three US soldiers last month. Read more.

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT is scrambling to assist companies on the front lines of fending off a growing host of malicious hackers from China and around the globe, White House cyber czar Harry Coker Jr. said yesterday afternoon at a security industry-focused summit in Washington, D.C. Read more.

BIDEN once again mixed up European heads of state, twice conflating former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl with former German Chancellor Angela Merkel while speaking to donors at fundraisers yesterday in New York.

  • The episode echoed Biden confusing French President Emmanuel Macron with former French President François Mitterrand during a campaign event over the weekend. Read more.

People, Power, and Politics

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON is suspending her longshot Democratic primary challenge to Biden. Read more.

A VERDICT on $370 million civil fraud trial against Trump should soon have a verdict, even if his longtime chief financial officer lied on the witness stand, the state’s attorney general told the court. Read more.

RUDY GIULIANI says he was shortchanged as part of Trump’s 2020 election campaign to the tune of about $2 million for legal fees. His estimated claim is against the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee—not the former president himself. Read more.

SPEAKER MIKE JOHNSON (R-La.) plans to endorse Rep. Matt Rosendale’s (R) campaign in the Montana race for the US senate, Punchbowl reports citing people close to the situation.

  • Johnson’s endorsement would put him in direct conflict with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the Senate Leadership Fund, all of whom are opposed to Rosendale’s candidacy. The Senate GOP has backed Tim Sheehy to challenge Sen. Jon Tester (D). Read more.

NURIA FERNANDEZ, head of the Federal Transit Administration, will retire on Feb. 24 after almost three years in the role — opening up another leadership gap at one of the Transportation Department’s agencies. Read more.

What Else to Know

Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg
FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker arrives for a hearing in Washington, DC, on Tuesday.

FAA ADMINISTRATOR MIKE WHITAKER met with CEOs of airlines including Alaska, American, Delta, United, JetBlue, Southwest, UPS, and FedEx to discuss the current state of the US aviation system and find ways to continuously improve safety, according to an FAA statement. Read more.

TOP TECH COMPANIES — including OpenAI, Anthropic, Microsoft, Meta, Google, Apple, Amazon, Hugging Face, and IBM — will participate in a newly established AI Safety Institute Consortium intended to craft federal standards to ensure that the technology is deployed safely and responsibly, the Commerce Department announced today. Read more.

THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY, Trump and Obama administration officials, and others are urging the Biden administration to reconsider a controversial plan for seizing patents on a drug when its cost gets too high, claiming the approach misinterprets decades-old law and threatens the delicate pipeline that produces innovative, life-saving drugs. Read more.

MILLIONS OF FAMILIES are getting conflicting advice about whether they should file taxes now or wait until closer to the April 15 deadline to see if Congress enacts a bipartisan tax bill that would expand the child tax credit. Read more.

To contact the reporters on this story: Giuseppe Macri in Washington at gmacri@bgov.com; Jeannie Baumann in Washington at jbaumann@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kayla Sharpe at ksharpe@bloombergindustry.com

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