Text of Border-Supplemental Bill To Be Released Soon. (For Reals.)
February 2, 2024|Jeff Davis
Happy Groundhog Day, everyone.
Today is February 2, and we are being told that the release of the long-awaited text of the $100+ billion supplemental Ukraine-Israel-natural disaster relief appropriations bill for which we have been waiting for six months, along with the accompanying U.S.-Mexico border funding and immigration law reform package that may or may not get Republicans to vote for the aid bill, may be released as early as tonight and “no later than Sunday,” in advance of a Senate test vote next week.
But we heard that last week.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters yesterday that he intends to file a motion to limit debate on some unrelated bill (yet to be named) to which the border-supplemental package will be attached, and will do so on Monday, February 5. This sets up a vote on cloture no later than Wednesday, February 7 (one hour after the Senate convenes). In order to be successful, and to move to the next phase of consideration, at least 60 Senators will have to vote “yes” on the cloture vote. In a 51 (D) to 49 (R) Senate, this will require at least 9 Republican Senators to vote “yes” and possibly in the mid-teens, because there are fears of up to a half-dozen Democratic defections being driven off by some combination of restrictive immigration policy and open-ended aid to Israel.
Between Republicans skeptical of further Ukraine aid, and those skeptical that the (still unseen) border policy changes to far enough, there will be a substantial number of GOP “no” votes on the cloture motion. But it is pivotal that Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) get at least 24 of his GOP colleagues to vote with him in favor of the deal, because 25 (24 + Leader) is a bare majority of the Senate Republican Conference.
If the bill that McConnell has been working towards all this time does not command the majority support of his caucus, it bodes poorly for the passage of the legislation in the House (and for McConnell’s leadership in general).
If the motion can get (and keep) 60 votes in the Senate, it will eventually be able to pass the Senate with 51 votes. But then it goes to the House, where the paralyzed dysfunction of Republicans (unable to keep its act together enough to win procedural votes with a bare majority on divisive issues means that the bill would have to get the consent of two-thirds of the chamber in order to pass under the alternative “suspension of the rules” procedure.
Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY) resigned from the House, effective today, so the membership next week will be 219 Republicans, 212 Democrats, totaling 431. If everyone shows up and votes, that means that 288 “yes” votes would be needed to pass the border-supplemental bill. (There will be at least a couple of members out sick, so 286 or 287 are more likely minimums.)
If it gets that far.
With former President Trump already lobbying against the (as yet hypothetical) bill, it seems unlikely that the bill will gain the support of a majority of the Republican Conference (currently 110 of 219). But the only way to be sure is to put the bill up for a vote, and then if it passes with overwhelming Democratic support and less than half of the Republicans, Speaker Johnson will have violated the GOP’s “Hastert Rule,” which says not to put a bill on the floor unless at least half of the majority party supports it (the “majority of the majority”).
If Johnson violates that (informal) rule, a disgruntled Republican might make another “motion to declare the chair vacant” which would then force a vote on whether Johnson should be relieved of his three-month-old Speakership.
When (and if) the package is finally unveiled, we will send out an update to the extent that the appropriations package touches transportation-related funding issues.