Right back to where we started from

 The law for border security and foreign aid was bad from the beginning

“We have to go back to where we started.” -Maxine Nightingale, 1976

There's an old saying on Capitol Hill.

When you have votes, you vote.

Don't hesitate. You don't get distracted. You don't delay.
You vote.

It's not clear, he said, that Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., James Lankford, R-Okla., and Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz. Whether or not the U.S. bipartisan coalition ever got votes for its border security plan. We may never know. But one thing is certain: It appears that his bill – even if it was not finished – got a lot more votes and probably could have passed in early January rather than February.

The purpose of this is not to place blame on the trio that negotiated the bill. There are many factors senators can control. Writing law is a difficult, tedious process. Murphy was a congressman and senator-elect when a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in his district in late 2012. He is a veteran of the punitive, painstaking fight and debate over gun control. At one point during the border bill negotiations, Murphy declared that it was easier to make a law about firearms than to make a law to set the limit.

But there was a delay in releasing the text of the bill. Lankford speculated at Fox in early January that release was a few days away.

He was on leave for only a month.

Two weeks ago, Sinema reiterated to reporters in the Senate hallway that they were very close to completing the bill. But the senator said they are still pushing the law, trying to make everything the same.

“We don’t like mistakes,” he said.

Border security and immigration occupy a complex, arcane province of the American code. Negotiators commented several times that changing just one word here or there could have serious, unintended consequences. Therefore, the need to work diligently to get things right can also be understood.

Time was not on his side.

On the contrary, time was on the side of the bill's opponents.

And he worked continuously for his own benefit.

The gap between when negotiators began drafting the bill and when they finally released the legislative text created a narrative gap for those intending to kill the bill. Opponents filled the void by making their own points about the then incomplete law. He focused on one provision that he said would allow at least 5,000 people per day to enter the country illegally. Lankford said that's simply not true. Nevertheless, the allegations provoked right-wing outrage. House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., was not aware of the conversation, but the speaker declared the bill "dead on arrival" in his chamber long before anyone saw the text.

You have to define yourself or be defined in politics. The same is true with legislation. The Senate's strictures on legislation enabled conservatives to define what the bill was—before the bill's authors could say what it was not.

dead on arrival?

barely. This bill was ruined before departure.

A handful of Democrats will likely oppose the bill. But the goal was to earn the support of half of all Senate Republicans. In other words, at least 25 of the 49 Senate Goppers. Lankford and others argued that they were at that ballpark the day before the bill fell. But hours later, Republican support had dwindled to just a few senators.

Bill tanked.

This is ironic – because it was Senate Republicans who demanded that Democrats craft a serious border security measure before they would even consider helping Ukraine. A bipartisan dialogue began. And then Republicans killed the effort.

Murphy was frustrated.

"The Republicans are a nightmare right now," Murphy lamented. "I don't know whether Republicans want to vote on Ukraine. On the border and Ukraine. Neither. It's not a good place to be in the Senate when the Republican caucus can't figure out what they want."

Certainly Democrats were willing to engage on border security. But the entire purpose of President Biden's supplemental spending request last fall was to aid Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

So while Democrats may find the situation troubling, an international aid bill was what they wanted all along. Meanwhile, everything went haywire on the Republican side of the aisle.

And don't forget that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is probably the biggest advocate for Ukraine in either body. But McConnell unwittingly found himself in an awkward position. He failed to read the temperature of his conference. Furthermore, there is arguably no Republican lawmaker who has more dislike for former President Trump than the minority leader. Yet the former President's efforts to weaken the border plan prevailed. McConnell lost.

It may be surprising that it took so long for MAGA-aligned senators to rebuke their leader. But this is what McConnell is facing now. For conservatives — ranging from longtime Tea Party loyalists to those today associated with former President Trump — things remain difficult for longtime former House Speakers John Boehner, Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy. Now McConnell is facing the same problems.

Senator Ted Cruz, R-Tex., has battled publicly with McConnell for years. Cruz told Fox News' Aisha Hassani that it was time for McConnell to go. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., made even more specific criticisms of McConnell while speaking with Hassani.

"He doesn't talk to his members. He doesn't listen to his members. He doesn't talk to his members. His focus is on (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelensky," Hawley said. "Is it any surprise that Republicans are up in arms and they're finally seeing this? It's an interesting leadership style. I'll tell you that."

McConnell, who served as the longest-serving Senate party leader in US history, owes his success to keeping his cards close to his vest. But the hand McConnell is now playing may not work in his favor. McConnell faced several health problems last year. McConnell would prefer to leave if former President Trump returns to the White House. Another health issue — coupled with Mr. Trump’s hostility to McConnell — could spell disaster for the Kentucky Republican.

But, in the short term, McConnell may get what he wanted in the first place: aid to Ukraine.

Don't forget, the original bill was about helping Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. The Border Bill disintegrated almost as quickly as it was issued. There are radioactive isotopes that stick together for much longer than the bipartisan limit bill would allow.

It brings us, in the words of 70s singer Maxine Nightingale, back to where we started.

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