Sen. Murphy on border security bill: ‘This is an old-fashioned compromise’

A bipartisan Senate deal to fund border security, Israel and Ukraine looks like a no-go after Republican House Speaker Johnson called it "dead on arrival." Amna Nawaz discussed the plan and its reaction with Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, one of the three key senators who negotiated that agreement.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    We return now to the immigration and national security bill.

    Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut is one of the three key senators who negotiated that agreement. He joins me now from Capitol Hill.

    Senator, welcome back to the "NewsHour." Thanks for joining us.

    My colleague Lisa Desjardins reported earlier on some of the details in that bill, also reported that House Speaker Johnson says the bill is dead on arrival. Where is the path forward now? And what's your understanding of what House Republicans would agree to at this point?

  • Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT):

    Well, let's just go back and understand why we're here.

    Last fall, Democrats tried to pass funding for Ukraine necessary in order to stop Russia from succeeding in their invasion, and Senate Republicans said to us, we're not willing to support Ukraine funding without border provisions.

    We engaged for four months in a good-faith negotiation the border, in part because we know the president needs new authorities to control the number of people who are crossing. And we achieved that agreement that allows the president to shut down parts of the border when crossings get very high, that dramatically reforms the asylum system, so that it doesn't take 10 years any longer to get a claim processed, it will now take six months, and lets more people into the country legally with an expansion of family and employment visas.

    But now Republicans seem to be getting cold feet because Donald Trump has said and his allies in the House have said, we don't want to pass any bipartisan border reform. We'd rather leave the border open and chaotic, because it will help President Trump in his upcoming reelection.

    I still believe that there's enough Republicans of good faith in the Senate that we can get this passed. And, if we do, then I think that show of bipartisan support for the border, fixing the border, and Ukraine can maybe unlock a pathway forward in the House.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    You have faced some criticism from your fellow Democrats as well, progressives in particular.

    The caucus chair, Pramila Jayapal, said Democrats are giving into extremist views. She said President Biden and Senate Democrats have fallen into the same trap again.

    Are you worried that the bill could alienate your progressive base?

  • Sen. Chris Murphy:

    Yes, listen, there has been nothing done on immigration in Washington in 40 years.

    And that is because both parties have refused to come to the middle and try to find some common ground. This is an old-fashioned compromise, one that we don't often see in Washington these days, in which there are going to be some Democrats that vote no and a lot more Republicans that vote no.

    But what we have achieved, I think, is important. The reality is, this country can't handle 10,000 people coming every day to our southern border with the resources that we have. We shouldn't be OK with an asylum claim taking a decade before it's ultimately processed.

    So, the reforms we're making here are going to make more sense of a broken immigration system. I know it's not everything that the left wants. It's not everything that the right wants. But I think our job is to come here and find these tough compromises.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Well, the bill has some $20 billion for the border, but the bulk of the money is for Ukraine, some $60 billion of what's been called critical funding for their war against Russia.

    If there's no path forward for this particular bill, how else could you move that aid in some kind of expedited way to Ukraine?

  • Sen. Chris Murphy:

    Well, right now, Republicans have not identified any other path, right? The reason why we are talking about these two provisions being put together is because Republicans demanded it. And so we can't forget the reason why we are at this moment.

    But I think that we need to call Speaker Johnson's bluff. I think he doesn't want the Senate bill to succeed because he knows there would be enormous pressure from some elements of his own caucus that support Ukraine funding to bring it up for a vote in the House.

    So I just think the Senate needs to do the right thing. The right thing is to support this bipartisan compromise that fixes our border and gets funding to Ukraine. And then, hopefully, that changes some of the realities in the House. I haven't heard a better plan from any of these Republicans who right now seem to be content to sit on the sidelines and complain and critique, but not actually get in the room, as Senator Lankford, Senator Sinema and myself have.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Just to be clear, you think, once this passes, if this is able to pass in the Senate, that creates enough pressure to change the dynamics in the House?

    What have you seen that leads you to believe that could be true?

  • Sen. Chris Murphy:

    Well, what I'm saying is that I don't know what the alternative plan is.

    Speaker Johnson right now is just offering complaints. He's not actually proposing any bipartisan solution to fund Ukraine and fix the border. And the reality is, there are two parties in Washington. Republicans don't get to dictate everything that happens here.

    That's why I reached out to Senator Lankford. That's why he reached out to me. That's why we have forged this bipartisan compromise. Until I hear a better idea on how to get a bipartisan compromise, the one we have achieved is the only one that's possible to pass and be signed into law.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Senator, before I let you go, I have to ask about another provision in the bill.

    It includes, we should say, the aid for Gaza, among other places. But it strips funding for UNRWA, which is the United Nations agency that operates inside of Gaza. That's because Israel accused 12 of their employees of being part of the October 7 attacks.

    But we have heard UNRWA is the only group capable of actually delivering aid on the ground. So is there any other group on the ground that you think could actually get the aid where it needs to go?

  • Sen. Chris Murphy:

    So, I do.

    UNRWA has been a very effective group in getting aid to people in need. We're also learning that elements of UNRWA are compromised. This was a demand of Republicans. The only way that they were willing to support any humanitarian aid into Gaza was to strip out the authority for that money to go to UNRWA. We didn't feel like it was the responsible thing to abandon humanitarian aid completely.

    And we also do know that groups like the Red Crescent, groups like the World Food Program, other smaller not-for-profit actors on the ground can get this key humanitarian aid out. So we believe that we can find good, responsible, vetted partners. We also believe that some of our allies in and around the region and in Europe will be able to help UNRWA keep their operations up and running.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    All right, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut, sir, thank you for your time. Good to speak with you.

  • Sen. Chris Murphy:

    Thank you.

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