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Updated Dec 4, 2023, 3:52pm EST
politics

The GOP demands that caused Democrats to walk out of border talks

REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger
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The Scoop

Bipartisan Senate talks on border enforcement reached an impasse late last week in part because of a GOP demand to grant the executive branch sweeping powers to restrict immigration.

Senate Republicans were seeking to provide the president new authority to shut down the asylum system at will by refusing to any hear claims from individuals seeking refuge in the U.S., per two Democratic aides close to the negotiations.

Among other fears, Senate Democratic negotiators worried that those powers would allow for the revival of Title 42, the controversial covid-19 era policy that allowed for the swift expulsion of migrants who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border that used the pandemic as legal justification for their removal.

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About 2.8 million people were expelled under the policy, which expired earlier this year after first being implemented under former President Trump. Trump is reportedly planning to reinstate a version of Title 42 to shut off the processing of asylum claims at the US-Mexico border as part of a second term agenda, The New York Times reported.

Democrats were concerned as well that giving the executive branch power to shut down the asylum system would make it easier for a future administration to reprise Trump’s ban on immigrants from several Muslim majority nations, according to the aides.

Republicans were also seeking to implement changes to so-called safe third-country laws that would result in a de-facto ban on migrants applying for asylum if they had to travel through other countries to arrive in the U.S., per one of the aides. “Republicans were coming to us with increasingly extreme proposals,” the Democratic aide said.

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Another source familiar with the talks said the Senate GOP’s demands included authorizing the federal government to detain children for prolonged periods of time and the construction of detention facilities on US military bases,. But Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-AZ., one of the negotiators, disputed that in a post on X.

“This isn’t true,” she wrote. “Getting to yes is hard enough, given the real differences between D and R positions on the border.” One of the Democratic aides briefed on talks said those provisions were originally part of the one-page proposal unveiled by the Senate GOP a month ago, but it wasn’t a factor in the collapse of the talks.

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Know More

During a floor speech Monday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said bipartisan border talks are “on ice” because Republicans were digging in on demands like expansive powers to “shut down” the immigration system that won’t attract bipartisan support. “We will not keep going in circles if Republicans aren’t interested in meeting halfway,” he said.

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The stakes of the discussions remain incredibly high. Republicans have said they will not support a new round of aid to Ukraine unless it is paired with major changes to border enforcement policy. Nonetheless, Schumer filed cloture on Monday evening for President Biden’s $106 billion supplemental legislation which would provide aid to Israel, Taiwan, and Ukraine, setting the table for a procedural vote as early as Wednesday.

Democratic negotiators had originally intended to keep talking through the weekend, but said they pulled the plug on Friday believing that Republicans weren’t budging. “It became pretty apparent by the end of last week that we were the only ones compromising. There’s still an opportunity to come back to the table,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. said on Monday evening.

Though Senate Democrats walked away from the talks, their Republican counterparts say they remain interested in striking a bipartisan deal. GOP negotiators disputed the characterization that talks with Democrats were on ice. ‘We’re still actually talking, we’re just not making progress fast enough,” Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., told Semafor. “We’re trading conversations and paper all the time.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson has reportedly been pushing congressional leaders to approve most, if not all of H.R.2, the House GOP’s party-line border enforcement bill. But Senate Republicans say they’re more interested in forging a compromise that attracts Democratic support. ‘He’ll get what we send him,” Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., told reporters.

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The View From The White House

In a new letter on Monday, the White House warned that the US was quickly burning through its designated pot of money to aid Ukraine and would no longer be able to provide weaponry from US stocks by the end of the year.

“There is no magical pot of funding available to meet this moment. We are out of money—and nearly out of time,” Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young wrote in a letter sent to congressional leaders.

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