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From New York Times, I'm Michael Bobaro. This is the daily for the past few weeks, Democrats and Republicans were closing in on a game changing deal to secure the US Mexico border. The kind of bipartisan compromise that, that's unheard of in contemporary Washington today. Karin DeMersa on why that deal is falling apart. It's Thursday, February 1.


So, Karin, we're here to perform a kind of autopsy on a deal that.


Might have been to talk about a.


Major bipartisan immigration agreement that took form over the past few weeks. It was championed by President Biden, leaders from both parties in the Senate to understand exactly why in a divided, dysfunctional Washington, it ever seemed like it had a chance to become law, and why, in the end, it seems to have been derailed. So where does that story start?


So the genesis of all of this is really late last summer when it starts to look like military assistance for Ukraine, which the United States had been funding and giving to this ally since early 2022 to help them fight off a russian invasion, is about to dry up. It had never been completely easy, but it had never been a really serious challenge to get this sort of money through Congress in various tranches in the past year and a half.




But all of a sudden, the right wing of the republican party starts to get really stubborn about saying, we're not going to let you have this money unless you give us something that's important to us in terms of national security, and that is more border enforcement on the southern border with.




So Republicans in Congress say to the president, you want that funding to Ukraine to be consistent the way it has been, you're going to have to give us greater security on the US Mexico border.


Exactly. It's a completely unorthodox sort of a linkage. The logic that has been presented is that they're both kind of national security type issues. But the idea of linking the Ukraine war to border security, it's fairly novel, and it's born out of the political priorities of the people who are pushing for that. The same group of Republicans that starts this push for more border security measures, more enforcement. They also just so happen to be the people who never liked the idea of sending all of this aid to Ukraine in the first place.


Got it.


And it only takes a couple of weeks before this talking point that originated in the right wing of the republican party.


But I am not inclined to support any more help to Ukraine at this time. If we want to take care of an invasion, we've got an invasion on that southern border kind of takes over.


The entire mainstream of the party.


I'm for better security at our border. I'm also for supporting Ukraine. I feel like we've got to negotiate these in tandem.


And you have many prominent Republicans in the Senate, too.


Are you saying Ukraine should not be a standalone?


It will not be a standalone, saying.


We'Re not going to let Ukraine aid get renewed unless there's border security alongside of it. And things actually do hit a deadline at the end of September where this emergency aid that's been flowing for Ukraine since the beginning of the war, they don't actually reauthorize it on time. And so all of a sudden there's this pause and everybody in the democratic party starts to panic.


You're saying republicans put their money where their mouth is and they say, this is not just a talking point. You're not going to get this aid for Ukraine at all. We are serious.


Yeah. And after this, it becomes very clear that Ukraine funding is not going to go ahead unless there are some border security measures attached to it. That leaves President Biden in a little bit of a bind because he has staked a lot of his legacy, reputation on this Ukraine war, and it is the biggest success of his foreign policy. And so he takes this very unorthodox, very surprising step of basically saying, okay, I'll meet that demand. I will tie these two things together. And I cannot overstate how much of an earthquake it is that Biden actually took that step to say, I will accept the GOP's ultimatum as legitimate and actually come and try to meet it.


Well, just explain that. Why is that such an earthquake, given that you just described this as a kind of impossible bind for Biden?


Well, it flies in the face of basically three or four decades worth of what Democrats'approach has been to border security, which is that it's part of a bigger conversation about immigration policy that has to involve things like pathways to citizenship or putting more visas for family reunification on the table or something that isn't primarily policing, processing and shutting things down. And that's been the case going back to basically the Reagan years since that's the last time Congress actually managed to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill to split off border security and say, oh, we'll do it alone and we won't ask for anything really on the immigration front. That is breaking with a whole lot of precedent that, frankly, a lot of the democratic party saw as President Biden selling out on something that was pretty fundamental to how they approached this issue.


You're saying this is revolutionary because it violates a long standing democratic approach that they will negotiate around reducing migrant crossings at the border. They will strengthen border security if and only if their approach to immigration is kind of met halfway by Republicans. And in this instance, Biden is instead agreeing to negotiate a tougher approach to the border without such halfway meeting from the other side. Instead, he's just doing it to get money for Ukraine.


Exactly, and that is why several Democrats see this as him basically selling out immigrants and giving up all the leverage that they might have on border security to get money for the next nine months for Ukraine. However, President Biden and the Democrats who support him see this as a potential opportunity. Yes, Ukraine is a problem, a big problem, but so is the border. They are seeing the surge of migrants come to the border. They are seeing how many are being bussed internally into the country. They are seeing how tens of thousands are flooding the streets of democratically run cities like New York. And they know that that's a huge political liability for President Biden if he doesn't do something to address it before the November elections. And so tying these two things together basically gives him a potential opportunity to address two big issues with 1 st, if it works.


So once Biden takes this very unorthodox approach to funding border security in order to get this money for Ukraine, what ends up happening?


So this creates an opportunity for a potentially huge deal on the border, a long shot, the type of deal that has eluded Congress for several decades at this point. And a core group of three senators starts entering this very intense phase of negotiations. They meet on a near daily basis for months, and eventually they actually do coalesce around a set of policies that they think could work to actually clamp down on the migration problem at the border in a way that both parties.


Could stomach, and what do they end up agreeing on?


They agree that they need to make it harder for people to claim asylum. There's a lot of people making frivolous asylum claims who don't actually fear persecution if they go home. So they agree to raise that bar. They agree to expand the capacity of detention facilities because a lot of the Republicans complaints are that you're letting all these migrants just run off into the country with no guarantee that you can bring them back to deport them later. They should be in detention centers. So they agree to do that. And kind of most critically, they agree to basically limit the number of people that can come into the country on any given day. And the way they envision doing that is if the number of migrants that border Patrol officers encounter reaches an average of 5000 per day, it would trigger an effective shutdown of the border.




That might sound like a lot. 5000. It's actually far fewer than what we see now. Late last year, there was an average of about 8000 people trying to cross in every day. So this trigger functions as a failsafe that if all these other measures they're putting out there can't bring down the number of migrants coming to the border, at least there's this that would actually shut things down.


So taken together, this seems like a pretty restrictive set of policies at the border and a lot like a republican approach. And you're saying this is what a bipartisan group of senators comes around to. So on top of starting off where Republicans wanted Biden to start off in these negotiations, Biden and Democrats seem to be willing to sign off on a bill that is very much out of line with traditional democratic approaches to the border and immigration.


Good afternoon, everyone. I'd like to speak to you today about an urgent responsibility the Congress has to uphold. The national security need in the United States.


They definitely are.


We need real solutions. I support real solutions. At the border.


President Biden comes out and says, we need this deal, get this done in.


Terms of changes of policy and provide resources that we need at the border. I'm ready to change policy as well.


And that he's willing to make very serious, pretty major concessions in the Senate, we see Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer put pressure on the Senate. If we believe something is important and urgent, we should stay and get the job done. Schumer even goes so far as to try to hold the Senate in until the holidays in the hopes they can speed together the end of a deal. Members need to be here next week. We have to get this done. And it's not just the Democrats. Republican leaders are saying to themselves, this is an opportunity that's never going to be repeated. Where you have Democrats this willing to make this kind of a deal, we should take it and run with it and try to make this work. And so as you're nearing the end of 2023, getting into the beginning of 2024, it actually seems like it's a possibility that there could be the votes for this deal if they can just finalize it in the Senate. But it's a very different story in the Republican led House, which has been much more skeptical of a deal. And it's a very different story as former President Trump, who's still really the leader of the Republican Party, starts to rack up primary wins in Iowa and New Hampshire and starts weighing in on this deal in very unsavory terms.


We'll be right back.


So, Karin, tell us exactly how at this moment of maximum possibility that this bipartisan immigration deal starts to unravel.


As we get into the new year, the opposition from the House starts to get much more solidified. You'd had a situation where basically Mike Johnson, he's a new speaker. He starts in his office at the end of October, just as all this stuff about the border negotiations and the Ukraine deal is just picking up in the Senate. And for a while, he's sounding like he might be open to it. But by the time you get to the beginning of the new year, yeah.


We have a humanitarian catastrophe here and, of course, huge national security concerns before.


He is actually down on the border.


If you don't end catch and release as a policy, if you don't reinstitute, remain in Mexico, if you only fix asylum or parole and not these other things, then you don't solve the problem.


You don't saying that he doesn't think that this has legs, that it does not go far enough to secure the border.


We're just asking the White House to apply common sense, and they seem to be completely uninterested in doing so.


And that's the point at which it becomes clear that he has fully soured on the deal.


And how much do you covering this take that motivation at face value? What's really going on? I mean, if the Democrats have come this far and Senate Republicans are pleased and pushing for a deal, what's really keeping the House speaker from seeing this as an opportunity as well?


Well, the House speaker does come from the right wing of the GOP. He is inclined to say, look, we need a lot of really draconian restrictions on the border to make sure that it's actually enforced. But there's another element at play, tier.


Two, the so called border security deal. Biden is gushing out and pushing out is not designed to stop illegal immigration.


It's designed Trump, who, as we said by mid January, has reclaimed the mantle of the GOP from winning these primary contests.


As the leader of our party, there is zero chance I will support this horrible open borders betrayal of America.


And he is openly using that pulpit to trash this emerging deal and tell Republicans to vote against it.


I'd rather have no bill than a bad bill. A bad bill you can't have. And that's what was happening in the.


House and why, I mean, what is his reasoning for trashing a deal that starts to fulfill something so central to his identity as president, which is get tough on the border.


Part of it is that the deal doesn't go as far as he would like to see it go. It doesn't restore all of the policies like remain in Mexico and border wall construction that he had pursued during his presidency. But part of it is also that he doesn't want to give Biden a win on this. It's an extremely compelling political campaign issue for him with his base. And if the Senate makes a bipartisan deal and a bunch of Republicans are endorsing that bipartisan deal, it becomes harder for him to say, Democrats don't want to secure the border. Reelect me.


So in a very real sense, Trump is trying torpedo this, we suspect, because he wants to make sure that a huge issue so animating and central to his campaign and his base remains an issue that's animating to his campaign and to his base. If he lets this deal happen, he can no longer run against a Joe Biden who hasn't done something about the border.


Exactly. And he and his supporters are very committed to keeping that tool alive for the next several months.


But help me understand the power of what Trump is up to here, because at this moment, yes, he's Donald Trump, a very influential leader within the Republican Party, but he's not involved in the negotiations. He's not president. He might not win and become president. So just how meaningful is his message to these House Republicans?


It's extremely meaningful because it's not like Donald Trump is on an island thinking this way. By weighing in here, he's exploiting a divide that was always there in the GOP. You had the right wing of the party very, very skeptical because they want to do more. And then you had a part of the party that was saying, hey, let's make a deal. So Trump coming in and catering to the base on this is kind of exactly what Trump always does. And once he does exploit that gap, it not only reinforces the anti deal sentiment that was already there in the House, it starts to turn senators cold on the idea of a deal, too. And it trickles all the way up to Senate minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who tells a room full of Republicans as the deal is getting very, very close to being done. Look, we're in a quandary here. We are potentially voting against the person who's going to be the GOP nominee. And so we have to decide, are we going to vote with what Trump wants or against it?


And judging by the fact that McConnell said this to a room full of republican senators. I suspect he is, in doing so, revealing the answer. Right. That you really can't vote against the party's nominee.


Yeah, he is admitting to the reality that they're in, which is that you can't do this without there being heck to pay on the campaign trail. And that could blow back on a lot of his members if they decide, no, we're going to put our heads down and plow through with this. And it's around this point where McConnell shows he's wavering, he's willing to be swayed and not lead his party through this, that Johnson jumps back in and says, this is dead on arrival if it comes to the House, which in a way, creates even more pressure on Senate Republicans who start saying, look, if this doesn't have a future, why should we stick our necks up for this deal?


So is it correct to say that that is the moment when this almost major bipartisan deal basically collapses?


I think the next few days are going to tell whether Trump has successfully torpedoed it or whether there's going to be a schism in the GOP because some senators decide not to let him completely torpedo it. But, yeah, ultimately speaking, the fate of this bill is slim to none in Congress because Trump has reinforced the House's inclinations and that has created back pressure on Senate Republicans to just say, nah, not now, not good enough, not this year.


What is the reaction from President Biden to this turn of events and to the kind of rapid deterioration of this deal?


So President Biden does something kind of interesting.


Two months ago, my team began to work with a bipartisan group of senators to put together the toughest, smartest, fairest border security bill in history?


He starts talking really tough about the border and saying, if that bill were.


The law today, I'd shut down the border right now and fix it quickly.


Give me this deal. If you give it to me, I will shut down the border. It is the sort of talk that you'd expect to hear, frankly, from a big border enforcement guy is not how President Biden started off his term. He's the guy who campaigned on a humane approach to immigration, and now he's saying, I'll shut it all down. And so in a way, it's like he's trying to enter the ring that Trump is already in and basically outflex him on how tough he can talk about the border.


So at this point, what happens to the two very substantive questions at the center of this bill and this compromise? What happens to funding for Ukraine. And what happens to this effort to secure the border if this bill now seems to be going absolutely nowhere?


That is the big question, right? Because when this all started, Republicans set this quid pro quo of no Ukraine aid without the border deal. If they don't accept the border deal that the bipartisan team of negotiators came up with, either they've got to re neg on that position that got this ball rolling in the first place to make sure that more Ukraine aid can get out the door, or they've just got to say, yeah, we're comfortable with that. We're comfortable with the fact that the United States is going to pull back on support, that maybe the rest of the western world will follow, and that that means Russia could overwhelm Ukraine on the battlefield. For Democrats, there's very little incentive to give the Republicans any of these border enforcement measures without securing that Ukraine aid. That was the whole reason that they agreed to go into this negotiation in the first place. And the result of that is basically going to know maintenance of the status quo, which is a little bit bleak given the fact that leaders of both parties have acknowledged the situation on the border is not tenable and something has to be done about it.


It feels like at the end of the day, this is really the story of a democratic president being willing to meet his republican congressional peers much more than halfway on a very sensitive issue, the border and immigration. And the response from those congressional republican peers is to reject the offer. Not, it seems, fundamentally, because of the policies at hand, but because of the politics at hand, because Donald Trump told them he doesn't like the deal, and they said, well, if you don't like it, we don't like it.


So what does that ultimately tell us?


I think it tells us that what Republicans want here is either a entirely republican solution that looks like a resumption of the policies that President Trump implemented on the border, which is a big ask when you only control the House of Representatives and Democrats control the Senate and the White House, or they want to be able to preserve the ability to blame the Biden administration. We've talked about how that's likely to play out and already is playing out on the presidential election circuit. It's also playing out within the House of Representatives, which is currently trying to impeach Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, effectively for failing to shut down the border in what, frankly, a lot of conservative legal scholars are also calling not a good impeachment, something that does not actually rise to the level of that sort of indictment and punitive action, but that's what they're choosing to do. And that is very much sticking your finger, pointing it at the Biden administration and saying, this is your fault. And we want you guys to take the personal hit for this. And we want to prioritize that over any sort, know, down payment on trying to make these policy fixes that maybe we could build on if we had a republican president next.


And that seems to be the prevailing winds in the GOP.


And that wind is no deals, even if the deal is on something that republicans say they care about and want because they would rather be able to blame the Democrats.


Yeah, unless they get everything that they want or practically everything that they want. Maintaining that ability to say it's your fault is worth more. And that's just a reality of the political time that we're in. But it's also just a reality of how messily divided things are in Congress and how impossibly hard it can be to chart a middle.


Thank you very much. We appreciate it.


Thank you so much.


We'll be right back. Here's what else you need to know today.


Online child sexual exploitation is a crisis in America.


During a high profile hearing on Wednesday, senators from both parties interrogated the country's most powerful tech executives about why their platforms have allowed for the spread of child sexual abuse material. The subject of a major times investigation.


In 2019, Instagram displayed the following warning screen to individuals who were searching for child abuse material. These results may contain images of child sexual abuse, and then you gave users two choices, get resources or see results. Anyway, Mr. Zuckerberg, what the hell were you thinking?


All right, senator, the basic science behind that.


The leaders of Meta TikTok, Snap, discord, and x testified that they have taken steps to crack down on such material. But when pressed, most of the executives refuse to endorse federal regulation to address the problem.


Are you familiar with the Earn it Act? Do you support that? Like yes or no? We're not prepared to support it today, but we believe. Do you support the CSAM act? The Stop CSAM act we are not prepared to support today, but we do support the ShiEld act. We believe that the cybertip line and necromance.


Throughout the hearing, families in the audience held up photos of the victims of online child sexual abuse, an act that republican senator Lindsey Graham singled out for.


Praise to all the victims who came and showed us photos of your loved ones. Don't quit. It's working. You're making a difference. Through you, we will get to where we need to go so other people won't have to show a photo of their family.


Today's episode was produced by Carlos Prieto, Shannon Lin, Stella Tan and Mary Wilson. It was edited by Mark George and MJ Davis Lynn contains original music by Marion Lozano, Dan Powell, Diane Wong, Will Reed and Pat McCusker, and was engineered by Alyssa Moxley. Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben lands firm of Wonderley. That's it for the Daily. I'm Michael Rivaro. See you tomorrow.