Senate GOP sees ‘dumb’ bid to boost incumbents with meaningless Schumer border vote

In 2020, Democrats treated border security as a "racist dog whistle." But they've started to listen to pollsters. "[T]hey don’t really think that they can pass it. So it’s just messaging on their side," Alaska GOP Sen. Murkowski said.
Chuck Schumer

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer confirmed this week that the upper chamber would hold a vote Thursday on an array of border security measures that originally featured in a failed package that included foreign aid. 

“The Senate will vote on the bipartisan Border Bill on Thursday. The President called both Leader McConnell and Speaker Johnson and urged them to go forward with this bill. All those who say we need to act on the border will get a chance to show they’re serious,” Schumer said Tuesday. “It’s been 104 days since Donald Trump and the Republicans blocked the strongest, most comprehensive border security bill in a generation. And they still don’t have any plan except exploiting the border for Trump’s political gain.”

Critics of the move doubt that it will pass and several lawmakers have suggested the ballot is merely a ploy to bolster vulnerable incumbent Democrats who have faced scrutiny from their red-state constituents over the issue by providing them with an opportunity to vote for a border security package. In February of this year, the Gallup Poll released a survey titled "Immigration Surges to Top of Most Important Problem List."

“I think the whole thing is dumb,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R- Alaska, told Politico. “The other side is now going to use it in a way to perhaps make some of their troubled incumbents in a better place. But they don’t really think that they can pass it. So it’s just messaging on their side.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mcconnell, for his part, rejected the overture, indicating that he told Biden “you caused this problem. If there’s no legislation that allows the problem to be fixed, why don’t you just renew what the previous administration was doing, which got the border in decent shape,” according to the Washington Times.

The Senate previously balked at the pairing, which Sen. James Lankford, R- Okla., Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, and Sen. Chris Murphy, D- Conn., had negotiated earlier this year. Lankford has indicated he will not support the standalone border security provisions.

The failure of the initial package led to Schumer pulling the border security provisions and instead advancing only the Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan aid portions of the bill. The chamber approved that package and it later cleared the House.

In rejecting the initial pairing, Senate Republicans had insisted that the border provisions would either have little impact on the ongoing surge in illegal crossings at the southern border or worse, exacerbate the problem.

Those provisions constitute the bulk of the Thursday bill and the legislation is not expected to pass as a standalone measure. The vote could, nonetheless, prove a publicity boon to Senate Democrats, especially those facing reelection this year in states near the southern border or in Republican bastions.

Democrats currently maintain a 51-49 advantage in the Senate over Republicans, with three independents caucusing with the Democrats.

Many Senate Democrats, however, are facing tough reelection contests in states that have drifted toward Republicans in recent years, including Nevada Sen. Jacky Rosen, Montana Sen. Jon Tester, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, and Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Here’s where they stand:

Jacky Rosen

Rosen, in particular, is in perhaps the most precarious position, representing a toss-up state so close to the Mexican border. Though Nevada has not supported a Republican for president since George W. Bush in 2004, the state backed Republican Joe Lombardo to become its next governor in the 2022 elections. 

Former President Donald Trump, moreover, maintains a 4.6% polling lead over President Joe Biden in the RealClearPolitics polling average in that state. Rosen maintains a similar lead over her own possible Republican challengers, though the race is regarded as a toss up.

Earlier this week, Rosen backed the border security package, saying “[w]hen I visited the southern border, I spoke to law enforcement about the resources & support they need to secure the border & stop the flow of deadly drugs.” 

“We have an opportunity this week to pass legislation negotiated by BOTH parties that'll help give public safety agencies those resources. Enough with the Washington games. Let's pass the border security bill,” Rosen posted on X.

Sherrod Brown

Sherrod Brown, moreover, will face the Trump-backed Bernie Moreno in November. Ohio has in recent years transitioned from a swing state to a Republican bastion, backing former President Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020 and later sending Republican J.D. Vance to the Senate in 2022. Brown currently leads Moreno by 5.0% in the RealClearPolitics average.

Brown, in April, urged Congress to approve the border security bill, saying “[p]residents of both parties have failed to protect the border – including the Biden Administration.”

“Now is the time to put politics aside. Democrats and Republicans must work together to pass the bipartisan border security bill, which is endorsed by border patrol agents and would provide law enforcement with the tools they need to finally secure the southern border and stop fentanyl from coming into our country,” he added. “I will keep working to do everything I can to break through the gridlock and ensure law enforcement have what they need to protect the border.”

Jon Tester

Tester, for his part, has taken a different approach to the border security issue, focusing on the fentanyl crisis and security at the northern border with Canada. 

Writing last week to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, he joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers in requesting more funding for the U.S. Border Patrol and also led two additional letters seeking funding for scanning technology at both the northern and southern borders.

Montana is a traditionally Republican-leaning state and Tester, a Democrat, will face Republican Tim Sheehy in November. At present, however, he leads by an average 5.5%.

Tammy Baldwin

Baldwin represents the Dairy State, which Trump won in 2016, but lost in 2020. Democrats have retained their advantage in statewide races and Democrat Gov. Tony Evers, secured reelection in 2022. The state remains a toss-up, though Baldwin leads Republican Eric Hovde by an average of 6.8%.

Baldwin previously backed the original border security-foreign aid package in February and has called for the upper chamber to approve the abandoned border security provisions.

“Our bipartisan border bill would’ve helped secure our border & stop fentanyl from coming into the country. This compromise would have taken meaningful steps to fix our broken immigration system but politics as usual got in the way. It’s wrong & we need to come back to the table,” she said last week.

Bob Casey

Casey, for his part, maintains an average 4.8% lead over Republican Dave McCormick, who has attempted to gain ground on the incumbent by addressing border issues.

“Bob Casey has had 18 years to get tough on the border. Instead, Casey has: Voted against the wall, Voted to give your taxpayer dollars to illegals, Voted against funds for fentanyl detection at the border, Voted against Kate's Law” McCormick posted on X this week. Accompanying McCormick’s post was an ad featuring video of Casey previously criticizing lawmakers who did not properly address border security.

Also this week, Casey endorsed the bipartisan border security bill, contending that it was Republicans who had prevented the Senate from approving the measures necessary to secure the border.

“Here we are the third time in a decade … where Republicans in Washington have prevented border security deal from going through,” Casey said Monday, according to WITF. “I hope they will join us this week and vote for this bipartisan border deal, which will, in essence, almost immediately shut down the border.”

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on X.