Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina reiterated his desire for Congress to address the issue of securing the U.S.-Mexico border, even after previously rejecting a bipartisan border deal. In an interview with Newsweek, Graham stated that he remains committed to finding a solution to this pressing matter.
On Wednesday, Graham decided to vote against the border deal, along with GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. This was surprising as both Graham and McConnell had initially expressed support for the bill, along with several other Republican senators.
The border bill was the result of months of negotiations between Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and Democratic Senator Chris Murphy. It aimed to provide funding for increased enforcement and overhaul the asylum system in order to discourage illegal border crossings. The measure received support from the National Border Patrol Council, the union representing Border Patrol agents.
After Republicans refused to support a funding package aimed at assisting Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, unless it also addressed the border issue, Democrats decided to make some compromises in order to reach a consensus. However, since the deal fell through, the Senate voted 67-32 on Thursday to initiate discussions on a separate funding package for the three countries. This particular package does not include any provisions regarding the border.
Senator Graham, who is known for his strong stance on national security and his vocal support for Ukraine, took many by surprise when he made the announcement on Thursday that he would be opposing the procedural vote to advance the standalone package.
“I believe it is important to address the issue of border security before moving forward,” Graham expressed to Newsweek. “I would like to see some amendments and thoughtful discussions on strengthening the border before shifting our focus to Ukraine.”
According to Newsweek, they inquired whether strengthening the border would entail reviving the bipartisan package or implementing alternative funding measures. For instance, President Joe Biden proposed a $13.6 billion request in October. This funding would be utilized to recruit more border agents, asylum officers, and immigration judges, while also combatting fentanyl smuggling.
Graham expressed uncertainty about the situation, stating, “I don’t know. There will definitely be some significant changes. We will have to wait and see.”
During his Senate floor speech on Thursday, Graham expressed his opposition to the border bill, stating that he believed it was insufficient and called for amendments to be made. Sinema, who was also present on the floor, challenged Graham by pointing out that he had previously voted against the motion to proceed, which is a prerequisite for adding amendments. In response, Graham declared, “I don’t trust the system here.”
Graham’s response is indicative of the current state of the Senate GOP. There is a heated internal debate within the party regarding the prioritization and approach to U.S. national security. This conflict has emerged between seasoned senators like Graham and McConnell and their younger counterparts such as Mike Lee of Utah and Josh Hawley of Missouri. The disagreement revolves around differing opinions on how America should prioritize its international affairs.
There is a rising group within the GOP that opposes providing further aid to Ukraine. Moreover, former President Donald Trump expressed his disapproval of the Senate border deal soon after it was unveiled, labeling it a “gift to Democrats.” He has emphasized border security as a central theme in his 2024 campaign.
Shortly after the 370-page bill was released, Republican lawmakers swiftly responded to President Trump’s public stance on the matter. Many of them expressed their opposition to the deal, leading to a considerable shift in support. It soon became evident that the border bill would not gather enough votes to surpass the 60-vote filibuster threshold. Even those who had initially spoken favorably of the bill, such as Graham and McConnell, withdrew their support.
When asked about Graham’s desire for border amendments and what they might entail, Murphy expressed frustration by throwing up his hands and candidly stating, “I’m done.”
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