James Lankford is having a bad week.
The senator from Oklahoma was once his party’s lead negotiator with the Democratic majority as his party sought a compromise on border security which led to a framework that included concessions the party previously never even dreamed of winning from their political rivals.
It wasn’t enough. As the legislation’s text was finally unveiled over last weekend, it became clear that a deal that once looked like it had a promising chance of passing the evenly divided upper chamber with 60 votes was going to fail, and fail spectacularly. The bill did so on Wednesday, with Mr Lankford, a handful of his GOP colleagues, and most of the chamber’s Democrats losing a procedural vote to begin debate on the legislation.
The bill’s fate came as little surprise: Donald Trump and his loyalists had come out against a compromise with Democrats, calling the legislation insufficient to manage the situation on the US-Mexico border and furious that Republicans would hand President Joe Biden another policy achievement to tout to voters this fall. Despite hemming and hawing from Republicans who denounced Mr Trump’s efforts to kill the legislation to help his campaign, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and virtually all of his conference voted down the legislation he had once urged senators to support.
And Mr Lankford is now at the centre of a firestorm on the right, hung out to dry by his party’s leaders in the upper chamber and the target of vitriol from hardline Trump loyalists.
The Oklahoma senator even revealed during a floor speech on Wednesday that a “popular commentator” on the right had contacted him and threatened to “destroy” him should his legislation make it into law.
“I had a popular commentator, four weeks ago, that I talked to that told me flat out, ‘If you try to move a bill that solves the border crisis during this presidential [election] year, I will do whatever I can to destroy you. Because I do not want you to solve this during the presidential election’.”
The senator added that the unnamed commentator “has been faithful to their promise” and has been working to “destroy” him, though he did not elaborate further.
Had Mr Lankford’s compromise legislation (which was also set to unjam a Senate roadblock on Ukraine and Israel funding) made it through the upper chamber, it faced total opposition from the hardline Trump-loyalist Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, who over the weekend had called it dead on arrival in a joint statement.
The lower chamber also failed to impeach Alejandro Mayorkas, Joe Biden’s Secretary of Homeland Security, on Wednesday, as those same hardliners have sought his public humiliation and expulsion over what they see as insufficient enforcement of immigration laws.
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