Republican Senator Abandoned by His Colleagues After Border Negotiation Faces Only Backlash

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., left, the lead GOP negotiator on a border foreign aid package, holds hands with his wife Cindy Lankford, center, right joined by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., who took center stage the Senate's border security discussions, during procedural votes, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. Senate Republicans blocked the bipartisan border package, halting months of negotiations between the two parties on legislation intended to record, have come to a standstill.  number of illegal border crossings.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(J Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Republican Senator Abandoned by His Colleagues After Border Negotiation Faces Only Backlash

Immigration and the border


February 9, 2024

Just before the Senate voted Wednesday to terminate the border deal he had spent the past four months negotiating, Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford climbed a marble staircase outside the chamber and joined his wife in the visitors’ gallery.

While the Republican watched quietly

a floor

Above, the outsider shortly after defending his legislation in a speech on the final Senate floor, fellow Arizona negotiator Kyrsten Sinema sat on the floor and denounced the Republicans who abandoned Lankford, one by one after they pushed for a border agreement and had asked him to negotiate an agreement. compromise on one of the country’s most intractable issues.

Less than 24 hours after we released the bill, my Republican colleagues changed their minds, said Sinema, a former Democrat turned independent. Apparently they just want talk and no action. It turns out that border security does not pose a risk to our national security. It’s just a talking point for the elections.

As he walked out of the gallery with his wife beside him, Lankford was asked by a waiting reporter if he felt betrayed by his company. He sighed deeply and waited a few seconds.

“I’m disappointed we couldn’t get it done,” Lankford said diplomatically. I don’t know if I feel betrayed because the problem is still there. It’s not resolved.

He then walked back down the stairs with his wife and Sinema, who had come to greet them after her speech, and walked into the room to see the bills being defeated.

Ultimately, all but four Republicans voted against moving forward with the legislation, including Minotirty Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who had delegated Lankford to negotiate the bill combining Ukrainian aid and border security and had been deeply involved in the negotiations .

A former Baptist Boy Minister, Lankford, 55, is known as one of the Senate’s most upstanding and well-liked members. He is a conservative who rarely votes against his party, has long supported stricter measures at the border and supports former President Trump. So his colleagues quickly and outright rejected the deal he issued

weeks and

months of negotiations and their willingness to completely abandon Lankford in the process, after many of them indicated they supported the direction of the talks, is all the more remarkable.

They responded to it as if it were a poison, said Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, the third-party negotiator with Lankford and Sinema, among Senate Republicans who had previously signaled support. I think what they did to James is unforgivable.

They really threw the guy overboard, President Biden said of Lankford during a fundraiser Wednesday night.

While some Republicans were always going to vote against the compromise, arguing that no policy is better than what they saw as weak policies, others made it clear they were encouraged by the talks when Lankford briefed them on the emerging details. But his colleagues

eventually quicklyeventually, quickly

The bill’s rejection underlines the deep divisions within the Republican Party as Trump, the party’s frontrunner for the 2024 presidential nomination, has made immigration a top issue. Some senators who were previously open to a deal became more skeptical after Trump made his opposition clear.

It’s also a sign of dysfunction and paralysis in the Senate, as the traditionally bipartisan image fades in favor of more partisan, House-style fights.

When he took on the task of negotiating a border compromise, Lankford laughed at getting the short straw. Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) later joked that if Lankford couldn’t get a deal done, Moses couldn’t get a deal done either. He is one of the most kind, compassionate people I have met in my life.

His fellow negotiators described him as a serious, smart lawmaker willing to spend long hours digging into the intricacies of immigration law while spending weeks away from his family. Murphy said senators often negotiate broad policy and let staff do the dirty work of turning the ideas into legislation.

James does both, Murphy said. It’s a sign of how sincere he is and how deep he is in politics. But it probably means he might be a little less attuned to politics.

The Oklahoma Republican spent

the last

spent three days desperately trying to explain the bill, after many of his colleagues issued statements opposing it without even reading the full text. Some Republicans


misleading statements about what it would do, claiming it was aimed at allowing more people into the country. Trump, who did that

was strongly opposed to the bill and

said he doesn’t want to give Democrats a victory on the issue, and cheerfully bragged that he helped kill the issue.

I think this is a very bad bill for his career, and especially in Oklahoma, Trump said of Lankford on a radio program earlier this week.

Among other measures to reduce the record numbers of migrants crossing the border, the bipartisan compromise would overhaul the asylum system with faster and stricter enforcement, and give presidents new powers to immediately expel migrants if authorities at the border become overwhelmed the number of migrants. people applying for asylum. It would also send billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine, Israel and allies in the Asia-Pacific region.

Lankford’s work in this area could have lasting political consequences. A group of about 100 people within the Oklahoma GOP distributed a statement condemning him for drafting the bill before it was released. And in his Senate speech on Wednesday, Lankford spoke about an unknown popular commentator who told him that if he tried to introduce a bill to solve the border crisis, I will do everything I can to destroy you, because I doesn’t want you to solve the border crisis. this during the presidential elections.

Even more surprising was how quickly his Senate colleagues turned against it.

When the bill was released late Sunday night, Lankford was on a plane flying to Washington. By the time he landed, a barrage of criticism from conservatives was already underway. He was speaking to reporters to explain the details of the bill to then-House Speaker Mike Johnson


posted to X that the note would be dead upon arrival in his room.

Lankford’s frustration was palpable as he responded, listing a number of conservative goals

wonder how

the bill would accomplish

a number of conservative objectives

such as building more border walls, hiring more Border Patrol agents, expanding detention capacity and accelerating deportations.

We must be able to find a way to stop the chaos at the border, Lankford said.

Almost no Republicans supported it, except McConnell. And seeing the writing on the wall Monday night, McConnell told the conference it was OK to vote no.

“I feel like the guy standing in the middle of a field during a thunderstorm holding the metal stick,” Lankford told reporters shortly before the bill’s release. This is really something intense. It was divisive.


Associated Press writers Seung Min Kim, Will Weissert, Jill Colvin and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.


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