Sen. Murphy calls GOP border meltdown ‘bizarre, maddening’

Good morning, Early Birds. We’re running our weekly Q&A, which typically appears on Fridays, a day early this week. Tips: Was this forwarded to you? Sign up here. Thanks for waking up with us.

In today’s edition … House Republicans prepare for Democratic border attacks … SCOTUS is poised to hear the Trump ballot case … but first …

Lead border negotiator says now it’s certain Republicans don’t want to fix the border

Seven questions for … Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.): We spoke with Murphy – who negotiated the doomed immigration and border security deal with Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) – shortly after the Senate voted it down yesterday.

Since then, the Senate has been stalled on a separate bill to fund military aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan as well as humanitarian aid for Gaza as Republicans fight internally about how to proceed. GOP leadership is working to navigate a divided conference, which spent the afternoon infighting and finger-pointing after rejecting the border deal. 

Now, some Republicans are demanding amendments before they advance the Ukraine and Israel bill, including amendments to secure the border. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) gave Republicans a night “to figure themselves out” and said the Senate would vote today, Leigh Ann and our colleagues Liz Goodwin and Abigail Hauslohner report.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

The Early: You spent months negotiating this deal. Was it all for nothing?

Murphy: I think every time you try to strike a big compromise, you have to realize there’s a chance of failure. I think it’s important for the parties to be continually trying to find common ground — even on the big, tough issues like immigration, even if we fail. As we speak, we don’t yet know what the fate of Ukraine funding is. But it could be that the disaster of the last 48 hours inside the Republican Party has shamed them into supporting a clean bill funding Ukraine, Israel and humanitarian assistance. Time will tell.

One silver lining is that we now have a definitive answer as to whether the Republican Party really wants to fix the border. They don’t. They have become addicted to just using the issue of immigration as a political wedge and an election year issue.

The Early: Just four Republican senators ended up voting for the bill. Were there any no votes that especially surprised you?

Murphy: I mean, the whole thing is still shocking to me. I am still shaking, having watched the most bizarre, maddening phenomenon I’ve ever been a part of in politics. On Sunday afternoon, we had 20 to 25 gettable Republicans. Twenty-four hours later we had four.

I think we now know for certain that Republicans can’t give up border chaos as an issue to explain. What would they do on their weekends if they couldn’t drag cameras down to the border to show off how disastrous it is? What would they give speeches about if we actually fixed the border? I just don’t think they can envision a world in which the border is under control.

The Early: Lankford argued Wednesday that some Republicans just wanted more time to read the bill or had policy concerns, like that the bill delegated authority to asylum officers rather than immigration judges. How many Republicans do you think had legitimate concerns?

Murphy: That’s a hard question to answer. There were certainly Republicans that objected to this bill on the merits. There were many others that likely would have supported the bill on the merits but couldn’t support it because Donald Trump told them they couldn’t.

The Early: You negotiated a bipartisan deal on guns with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) less than two years ago. There was a lot of skepticism that could pass, too. What was different about this effort?

Murphy: I went into the immigration negotiations thinking that guns and immigration shared a similarity given that they were both very politically troublesome issues. But I quickly learned how different those issues are. The immigration code is byzantine, it’s complicated, it’s enormous. You push in one piece of it and another piece pops out.

The other way it’s different is, I don’t think Donald Trump cares nearly as much about the issue of guns as he does about stopping people that look different from him from entering the United States. We were dealing with an issue that was core to Donald Trump’s identity as a politician. And that made it very different than guns.

The Early: What does this bill’s failure mean for future border and immigration legislation?

Murphy: I don’t think we’re going to get bipartisan immigration or border reforms in the foreseeable future. The rug has been pulled out from under us by Republicans enough times that we should understand their nature on the issue of immigration. So it is likely going to only be through Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate that we get real immigration reform.

There are parts of this bill that can stand on its own. The reforms to the asylum process that move adjudications from 10 years down to six months is a really important reform. It’s really thoughtful. It’s really well done. If it was only Democrats writing that provision, it would look a little different than when I wrote it with a conservative Republican. But the basic idea of that reform is an important step forward.

The Early: It’s essentially impossible to pass an immigration bill through reconciliation. Are you saying you think the Senate won’t be able to pass an immigration bill until Democrats have 60 Senate votes?

Murphy: No, we’ll change the rules before we have 60 votes. What I’m talking about is a Senate in which there’s a 50-vote threshold for passage.

The Early: You said on Tuesday that you used to tell constituents that “Trump doesn’t control the Senate Republican caucus like he controls the House” but that you “don’t think that’s true any longer.” What does that mean for the Senate next year if Biden wins reelection? What about if Trump wins?

Murphy: My hope is that this election is a final judgment on Trump as a figure in American politics. Maybe I’m naive, but if Trump loses again, I don’t think he’s going to have sway on the Republican Party in the way that he does today. If he wins, our long national nightmare is just beginning again.

House Republicans prepare for Democratic border attacks

Biden has pledged to go after Republicans on the campaign trail for torpedoing a bipartisan border security deal, saying “the American people are going to know the only reason the border is not secure is Donald Trump and his MAGA Republican friends.”

Republicans say they’re not afraid.

Polling shows Americans trust Republicans to handle immigration and border issues more than Democrats, and illegal border crossings have surged since Biden took office, the National Republican Congressional Committee notes in a memo shared with us outlining how the party will approach the issue in ads this year. The NRCC is betting it can counter Democratic attacks over Republicans’ rejection of the border deal by pointing out that House Democrats have voted against Republican border legislation, too.

“Voters associate securing the border with Republicans like peanut butter to jelly,” the memo argues.

The NRCC believes the strategy could be particularly effective in swing districts near New York City, Chicago and Denver, which have received a disproportionate share of migrants, in part from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott busing them there.

But the anger inside the Senate Republican lunch on Wednesday, which we’ve already noted, is a signal that Republicans are worried about being blamed for walking away from a solution to the border crisis.

Nevada will hold its Republican caucuses tonight, two days after Nikki Haley lost the Republican primary to “none of these candidates.”

Trump did not run in the primary and instead decided to compete in the caucuses, which, unlike the primary, award delegates to the Republican convention. Betsy Ankney, Haley’s campaign manager, has accused the caucuses of being “rigged for Trump.”

Haley isn’t running in the caucuses — Republicans had to choose one or the other — so there’s little doubt of the outcome.

We’re watching tonight’s Virgin Islands caucuses, which award only four delegates but in which Trump and Haley are competing.

White House lawyers are reviewing special counsel Robert K. Hur’s report on President Biden’s mishandling of classified documents. Ian Sams, a spokesman for the White House Counsel’s Office, told our colleagues Devlin Barrett and Perry Stein that the review of the report is expected to be completed by the end of the week.

We’re waiting for the release of the report, which is expected to be critical of Biden and his aides but include no criminal charges.

Supreme Court decides Trump’s fate

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today in a case that could change the landscape of a presidential race for the first time in more than two decades. 

At issue in Donald J. Trump v. Norma Anderson is whether Colorado’s high court was correct when it found that Trump engaged in insurrection before and during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by his supporters and is, as a result, disqualified from running under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

  • About the provision: “The disqualification clause was initially intended to guard against former Confederates returning to positions of power after the Civil War,” our colleague Ann E. Marimow reports. “It says no person who previously took an oath ‘as an officer of the United States’ to ‘support the Constitution’ and then violated that oath by engaging in insurrection or rebellion can ‘hold any office, civil or military, under the United States.’”

“Trump’s lead lawyer, Jonathan Mitchell, told the court that Section 3 does not apply to Trump for several reasons,” Ann writes. “Among them: The president is not an ‘officer of the United States,’ which is the term the section uses to discuss potential insurrectionists; Congress, not state courts or state officials, enforces the disqualification provision; and Trump did not engage in insurrection.”

Here’s what we’re watching: 

Justice Clarence Thomas: Thomas is facing calls from Democrats and court transparency advocates to recuse himself from the case given that his wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, was involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 election results and concerns that he can’t be impartial. On Wednesday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (Ill.) became the latest Democrat to urge Thomas to sit out the case, citing a “question of bias.” But the court did not indicate when it took the Colorado ballot case that Thomas, or any justice, would sit out — which means it is almost certain that all will participate.

The debate: “The court’s conservative majority favors originalism and textualism — methods of interpretation that direct judges to interpret the words of the Constitution as they were understood at the time they were written and to consider the words of laws under review,” Ann writes. “Conflicting interpretations of the text and history of Section 3, also known as the disqualification clause, are likely to dominate Thursday’s argument.”

The ruling: “The court could rule more narrowly, finding, for example, that Colorado was wrong to bar Trump because of a technicality,” Ann writes. “But election law experts have implored the justices to definitively decide the key question of whether Trump is disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, settling the issue nationwide so that other states with similar challenges to Trump’s candidacy follow along.”

The fallout: “Whatever the court decides is likely to polarize voters just as the court’s decision in Bush v. Gore split the country 24 years ago,” Ann writes. 

Follow The Post’s live coverage of the oral arguments starting at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time. Check out Ann and Patrick Marley’s Wednesday Q&A session while you wait.

Is it fast enough so we can fly away?

Thanks for reading. You can also follow us on X: @theodoricmeyer and @LACaldwellDC.

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