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Can the US Senate strike a deal on border security? Montana's senators weigh in

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Posted at 6:08 PM, Feb 01, 2024

BILLINGS- President Biden says for too long the southern border has been broken.

It’s something at least both Republicans and Democrats can agree on, even if they might not agree on a future border security deal.

“Montanans want that border secure. I want that border secure,” said Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana.

Tester says for months, he’s pressed Senate leaders to come to the negotiating table on the border and prioritize fixing the broken system.

“But to rule it out of order at this moment in time, as some are doing on the other side of the aisle is nothing short of ridiculous,” said Tester.

The trouble at the southern border continues to steal the spotlight on Capitol Hill, as lawmakers still say the Senate is close to releasing its border deal after weeks of negotiations.

A possible agreement could give Biden, a Democrat, new power to halt border crossings after hitting a certain threshold.

Some Republican senators say Biden created the problem at the border and has the power to end it.

This week, Republican Montana Sen. Steve Daines took to the press podium in Washington, D.C., proclaiming Biden created the border crisis and is refusing to secure it.

“Hours after he was sworn into office back in January of 2021, he went to the Oval Office and by executive order reversed many policies that President Trump had put in place that were working to secure the southern border,” said Daines.

Meanwhile, Democrats like Tester worry the other side of the aisle will tank a reasonable proposal.

“Congress needs to do its job and move forward,” said Tester. “The irony here is amazing I have watched elected officials in Montana talk about how the border needs to be fixed and now that we have a potential solution in front of us, they don’t even want to debate it?”

President Biden instructed his administration two months ago to start negotiations with a bipartisan group of senators.

The negotiations are being led by Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy from Connecticut.

Montana State University Billings political science professor Paul Pope believes the deal could have something for everyone.

“Biden is trying to walk the tight rope between liberal interests and conservatives' interests,” said Pope.

He says what’s being negotiated is the toughest and fairest set of reform to secure the border that the country has ever seen.

“More humane treatment of asylum seekers at the border,” said Pope. “He wants to get rid of family separation. He wants to have the power, whenever we are overwhelmed with numbers of people at the border, he can just shut down the border and stop the process.”

But shutting down the border is exactly the point Daines takes issue with when it comes to Biden.

“President Biden can solve this problem by just reinstating the policies that President Trump had put in place,” said Daines.

Daines says lawmakers haven’t even seen the proposal yet so it’s hard to know exactly what it includes. He maintains Biden has the executive authority now to stop it, but refuses.

Tester says Congress must act regardless of party affiliation.

“It shows you just how ridiculous Washington is, when people are elected to represent their party and not the American people. This compromise done by a Democrat, Republican and Independent I think is going to be good,” said Tester.

Pope says the proposal is a balancing act as many things in Washington, D.C. are, and he believes the package could appeal to both sides.

“Compromise, I am sure, is going to be made,” said Pope.