Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.,
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick is helping to lead a new deal, soon after the last one died in the Senate. Al Drago/AP

There’s a New Border Deal Coming but Nearly Everyone’s Skeptical There’ll Be a Different Result

House members are working on a bipartisan deal that changes border policy and provides foreign military aid — and it’s up against the same political forces that killed the last try.

Two House Republicans are attempting to revive a bipartisan push for a bill that combines border security and foreign military funding. But coming just days after the last big attempt died spectacularly, they’re facing one big question: Why is this deal any different?

Republican Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick and Don Bacon are aiming to attract members of both parties with a “bare bones” bill that doesn’t include humanitarian aid for Gaza, but instead matches border security with military assistance to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, Fitzpatrick said. They released the bill text on Friday morning. It has eight backers, including Fitzpatrick and Bacon: Republicans Michael Lawler and Lori Chavez-DeRemer, and Democrats Ed Case, Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, Jared Golden and Jim Costa. Fitzpatrick said several senators are on board, but would not share who. Many lawmakers knew little or nothing about it. And the approach is already drawing criticism from the left and right.

Some Republicans, including House Speaker Mike Johnson, insist the problem lies with President Joe Biden not taking executive action to address the border — not with Congress — and already rejected the Senate’s bipartisan plan. Some Democrats, meanwhile, are infuriated that the new deal doesn’t include any humanitarian aid and would revive former President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.

“Hard work went into the bipartisan deal in the Senate, and to pooh-pooh that is ridiculous,” Democratic Rep. Salud Carbajal told NOTUS. “Why don’t you focus on something that’s already bipartisan, and let’s move that forward, instead of trying to come up with yet another gimmick.”

With the House out for the next two weeks, a vote on the bill won’t happen soon, if it makes it to the floor at all. Both Fitzpatrick and Bacon said they would ensure the bill gets a vote, even if Johnson won’t bring up the bill himself.

But the likelihood the two could push through a bill without support from Republican or Democratic leadership is slim. Bacon and Fitzpatrick, both of whom are part of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, said they will meet with Johnson on Thursday to discuss the bill. For now, Democratic leaders are keeping their distance.

“With respect to a bipartisan group of members who are working on a border piece, we don’t have much to say about that right now, we’re focused on the package that was sent over from the Senate,” a Democratic leadership staffer told NOTUS.

“What was sent over from the Senate, it’s a bipartisan bill that we believe has 300-plus House members who’ll be willing to support it and vote for it if it’s put to the floor by Speaker Johnson,” the staffer said.

Fitzpatrick said his bill could succeed where the Senate border deal failed because of its narrow approach.

“The framework has to be bare bones. This is the problem the Senate ran into: They try to get too broad on the base language and then it opens it up to criticism,” he said. “The more airtight that base language is, it’s much more immune to criticism, and then people can have their voice heard on the floor with amendments including humanitarian aid — which I would support, by the way.”

He also believes many members are committed to passing aid for Ukraine and Israel. Fitzpatrick is heading to Ukraine on Monday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, then to Israel the following day to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“There are plenty of us that are not gonna allow Ukraine to fail on our watch, it’s too existential,” Fitzpatrick said.

Bacon said the bill would cost around $60 billion, compared to the Senate deal’s $95 billion price tag.

“We want to talk to Speaker Johnson because it fulfills what he’s asked for, and it depends on his support or not,” Bacon said. “He said he wanted a more fiscally responsible bill and he wanted border security. Our bill does that. We cut about a third of the spending.”

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However, that doesn’t mean the rest of their conference is a friendly audience.

“I think border’s kind of done,” Texas Rep. Michael McCaul said. “We passed H.R. 2, [the Senate] couldn’t pass anything, and we say the president already has the authority to go back, to reverse the policies and go back to the prior administration’s policies.”

Most Republicans and Democrats hadn’t heard any details on the bill beyond what Fitzpatrick and Bacon had told the press. Still, some said they were open to considering a bill because they see border legislation as a necessity.

“There’s got to be some good people who can get together and try to salvage some kind of win on the border, as opposed to just eating a supplemental with nothing on the border on it,” said Rep. Dan Crenshaw, who is not a member of the group discussing the deal. “That’s still the goal, even though it’s a tough one at this point.”

Rep. Mary Peltola, also a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, said she was supportive despite the exclusion of humanitarian aid.

“A lot of people feel like half a loaf is better than none. I think they’re just trying to do something, which is better than nothing,” she said.

This story has been updated to note the bill was introduced and its co-sponsors.

Katherine Swartz and Casey Murray are NOTUS reporters and Allbritton Journalism Institute fellows. Haley Byrd Wilt, a NOTUS reporter, contributed to this report.