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Senate’s border deal is already more than halfway to getting blocked

Senate negotiators have two days to get to 60 votes on their $118 billion-plus proposal to pair major immigration policy changes with aid to Ukraine and Israel.

So far, they’re not having a lot of luck.

There are already 24 senators who stand as likely or outright nos on the bill, according to a POLITICO survey of all 100 senators. That’s past the halfway mark to a filibuster, leaving the deal dangerously close to failing during an expected Wednesday test vote.

Those no votes include three Democratic caucus members: Bob Menendez (N.J.); Alex Padilla (Calif.); and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who does not support unconditional aid to Israel.

Plus 21 Republican nos or likely nos: Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Mike Braun (Ind.), Katie Britt (Ala.), Ted Budd (N.C.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Ted Cruz (Texas), Steve Daines (Mont.), Deb Fischer (Neb.), Bill Hagerty (Tenn.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), Ron Johnson (Wisc.), Mike Lee (Utah), Roger Marshall (Kan.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Mike Rounds (S.D.), Eric Schmitt (Mo.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Rick Scott (Fla.), Tommy Tuberville (Ala.) and J.D. Vance (Ohio).

Not to mention the handful of Republicans who sound on the fence, like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). He said he’s “open-minded on steps we can take to make the bill stronger.” He forecasted that unless amendments are offered, the bill would collapse.

But as Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) warned on Monday, an open amendment process could turn into a free-for-all by allowing critical conservatives to delay a final vote indefinitely.

“I don’t want this to turn into a filibuster, which it easily could,” Durbin told reporters.” That’s the problem. And I think Senator McConnell knows it.”

Several members of GOP leadership, like Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) and Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), said they are still reviewing the deal’s text. Other Republicans seem to be weighing their colleagues’ reactions before making a call.

“It will take days and weeks, not minutes and hours, to evaluate it. If we can’t get half of the conference, we shouldn’t move forward,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said in a statement.

Republicans could get a better sense of where their side stands during a closed-door conference meeting later on Monday. Meanwhile, plenty of Democrats still have not weighed in on the deal, which adds to the uncertainty given the progressive pushback that the border accord has long faced.

Some liberal senators, like Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), have stayed mum on their stance. Warren’s spokesperson said that she is still reviewing the details of the legislation.

Padilla, who’s long aired worries that the border negotiations were moving too far to the right for his taste, said “there’s a lot of calls and meetings that are happening.” He predicted that amendments wouldn’t solidify Democratic support either.

“I don’t see Republicans going for amendments that would make the package better,” he said.

Asked whether any of the no votes are flippable, Lankford admitted that he doesn’t know.

“Many of my colleagues said they needed a week or two or three weeks to be able to go through it to make a decision – and then they made decisions within minutes or hours,” he said.

If there’s a Plan B for foreign aid in case the border security package fails, its negotiators haven’t said yet. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has teed up a key test vote on the measure for Wednesday.

Asked about a backup plan for Ukraine aid, Durbin replied that “beating Putin is plan A, B and C.”

The Senate is currently slated to leave town at the end of this week for a two-week recess. When they come back, they’ll be facing a government funding deadline within days. And in case you were wondering, Congress has taken no floor votes on individual government spending bills since it last punted its shutdown deadlines.

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