GOP senators working with Sinema to hatch border add to spending bill

GOP senators working with Sinema to hatch border add to spending bill

A group of mostly Republican senators and Independent Kyrsten Sinema are working on a proposal to deliver billions more in border security funding, hoping to drive up GOP support for the Senate’s stopgap spending bill.

While the amendment is not finished, those senators are hoping to deliver as much as $6 billion in border funding to a bill that currently lacks that extra money, according to senators and aides. The idea is to send roughly the same amount of funding to the border as is currently slated for Ukraine’s defense and disaster aid.

Nothing is final and negotiators are still working on the details, senators said as they left the meeting. Sen. Katie Britt (R-Ala.) said the goal is to “keep the government open and shut the border down.” And some Republicans want immigration policy changes, a much more challenging subject for the Senate to confront.

“We’re trying to figure out a way to grow the vote to avoid a shutdown but also to have real teeth for border and immigration reform that could potentially get done,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) after a meeting in the office of GOP Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) on Thursday morning. Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Susan Collins of Maine and Thom Tillis of North Carolina also joined the meeting.

If senators propose an amendment that merely adds money, it would be at a simple majority threshold — a bar the Senate could meet with GOP votes as well as centrist Democrats. Speaker Kevin McCarthy, though, wants policy changes that could require 60 Senate votes to get added to the bill. And in the end any legislation to keep the government from shutting down on Sunday will need 60 votes to avoid a filibuster.

McCarthy told reporters on Thursday that he’s spoken with Senate Democrats about adding language to their stopgap spending bill that’s related to the pandemic-era border policy known as Title 42 and a separate, Trump-era migration policy called Remain in Mexico.

The speaker further confirmed that Sinema, who generally votes with Democrats, is among those he has spoken with — but said he hasn’t addressed the topic with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. McCarthy said Republicans want “policy [changes]. Money won’t do anything.”

Asked if they’re considering policy changes in addition to money, Thune said after the meeting: “We’ll see. There are still a couple issues that are up in the air about how we might actually get this attached to the bill.”

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