Sen. Susan Collins broke with most of her fellow Republicans Wednesday to vote for legislation that would have strengthened security along the United States’ southern border, expedited work permits for asylum seekers, and provided military assistance to Ukraine and Israel.

The sweeping legislation was the product of months of bipartisan negotiations but died Wednesday when it failed to get enough Senate votes to even consider the bill. It needed 60 votes, but got just 49, including both of Maine’s senators.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press, file

It wasn’t immediately clear what will happen next. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, quickly moved to bring forward an alternative bill containing foreign military and humanitarian aid without the border security provisions, although that effort was slowed by procedural votes. The alternative bill includes $60.1 billion in military assistance for Ukraine, $14.1 billion in security assistance for Israel and $10 billion in humanitarian aid for civilians of global crises, including Palestinians and Ukrainians.

The defeated border measures would have created the most restrictive security and immigration rules in recent decades and were backed by most Democrats, who bowed to previous Republican demands that any foreign assistance for Ukraine must be coupled with stronger security for the southern border.

The deal to accomplish both goals collapsed amid criticism from former President Donald Trump, who whipped up Republican opposition to what he said would have been a political gift to President Biden as the two men head toward a faceoff in the election this fall. The bill also was criticized by some conservatives as not being tough enough, and by immigration advocates, who said the bill would make it too difficult for people to seek asylum here.

Collins was one of four Republicans who voted for the bill Wednesday, while 44 Republicans voted no.


Collins was not available for an interview after the vote, her staff said. But on Monday, Collins said she would support the deal, despite increasing opposition among Senate Republicans and pledges by House Republicans that they would refuse to consider the legislation.

“The legislation is by no means perfect, but it would address our border humanitarian and national security crisis and is a substantial improvement over the chaos and lawlessness that characterize the border now,” said Collins, who worked to ensure her asylum work permit proposal was included in the bill.

“I strongly support the other three pillars of the (bill) which I helped to negotiate: the additional military aid to help Ukraine counter Russian aggression, which is in America’s own interest; the assistance to Israel in its war against terrorism; and the support for the Indo-Pacific region to deter China.”

The other three Republicans to vote in favor of the bill were James Lankford, of Oklahoma, who was a lead architect of the bill, Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, and Mitt Romney, of Utah.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, also voted in support of the border bill on Wednesday and has criticized Republicans for abandoning the reforms because of pressure from Trump.



Four Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, voted against the bill, as did Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, because they believed the border measures were too strict or they opposed funding Israel’s war against Hamas.

 The bill included a provision promoted by Collins that would allow asylum seekers to work after passing an initial screening at the border. Under current federal law, asylum seekers must wait to seek work authorization for at least six months from when they file their asylum application, which can take a year to assemble.

It also would have increased the number of asylum officers, judges and border agents, and paid for additional construction of a border wall. And it contained provisions to shut down the border and deport new arrivals when unauthorized crossings surge. The closures would be optional or mandatory, depending on the number of people crossing the border.

Reducing the waiting period for work permits has been a priority for Maine’s congressional delegation since at least 2016, when King submitted a bill in response to an increase in the number of asylum seekers arriving in Portland. Both Collins and Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, have offered bills this year to reduce that waiting period and Collins successfully pushed to include her proposal in the Senate bill defeated Wednesday.

Efforts to shorten or eliminate the waiting period for work permits have the support of business groups struggling to find workers and Maine communities struggling to support asylum seekers relying on public assistance because they are not allowed to support themselves. Others have criticized the change as an incentive for people to come across the border even if they don’t have valid asylum claims.

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