Kyrsten Sinema calls out Senate Democrats and GOP as bipartisan border deal fails again

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Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an independent who has opted not to run for re-election in November, accused Democrats and Republicans in Congress of playing political games Thursday during a failed attempt to pass a bipartisan border deal that she helped negotiate.

Sinema, I-Ariz., addressed her U.S. Senate colleagues from a floor speech in the moments before nearly all Republicans, joined by a few Democrats, voted against the Bipartisan Border Security Agreement by a margin of 50-43.

"These games of tit for tat, caving to the political messaging game, force both parties further to the fringes — and further away from real solutions," Sinema said. "Today, the Senate is proving what many Americans already think about Congress: that senators come here for political games, not to deliver results."

Sinema crafted the compromise legislation over four months, working with Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

The agreement would have shut down asylum processing at the U.S.-Mexico border when migrant crossings reached a certain number. It would have allowed asylum officers to adjudicate cases more quickly from the border and sped-up deportations from the U.S.

But just days after the trio unveiled the details of their deal in February, Donald Trump, the former president and 2024 Republican front-runner, criticized and tanked the bill before it came up for a vote. After it became clear that Trump didn't want them to give President Joe Biden an election-year victory, Republicans refused to advance debate on the border deal.

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Sinema called out GOP lawmakers for backing out, adding that this was one of the most restrictive border bills in decades. This time around, she also chastised Democrats, her former party, saying they brought up this vote solely to cast blame on the other side as border security remains a top issue this election cycle.

Her floor speech echoed the comments that Sinema made in March to announce that she would leave the Senate after her first and only term ends. She cited growing partisanship as the reason she was leaving. On Thursday, she expressed concern about what example this saga set to solve other contentious issues.

"To use this failure as a political punching bag only punishes those who were courageous enough to do the hard work of finding compromise in the first place," Sinema said. "So, who will be courageous next time? Who will stand up and do the hard work? Who will take the risks?"

Republicans continue to blame Biden for the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border. While the number of border crossings in between ports of entry has dropped sharply since December, they are still high enough that had an agreement passed Congress in February, it would have allowed U.S. officials to shut down asylum processing at the border nearly every day since then.

Lankford, one of the three lawmakers involved in reaching a deal, voted against the bill he crafted. He also spoke Thursday from the floor of the Senate, saying that while he thinks the agreement should pass, there was no serious intention to actually do it.

"Today is an opportunity to be able to have a vote that’s sitting out there so people can send fundraising emails out later tonight and say, look, I tried to do something when no work was actually done to try to get something done and completed and passed today," Lankford said.

The White House threw their support behind the Bipartisan Border Security Agreement, at times even participating in discussions with the trio of senators. Since it first failed in February, the Biden administration has unsuccessfully called on Republicans to reconsider.

On Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called the agreement the strongest in nearly 30 years and said it would provide his department the tools needed to quickly adjudicate cases for migrants who qualify to remain in the country and remove those who don't.

"The American people deserve an immigration system that works, that enhances our security and delivers the humanitarian relief that a functioning asylum system is designed to provide. The bipartisan border security legislation does just that," Mayorkas said in a written statement.

Following her floor speech on Thursday, Sinema joined Lankford in voting against the Bipartisan Border Security Agreement. Murphy voted for it, along with Arizona's other senator, Democrat Mark Kelly. He lamented that the agreement failed once again.

"In our state, the consequences of ignoring the problem aren’t just talking points, it’s a challenge that we face every day, whether it’s an election year or not," Kelly said in a written statement after the vote.

Have any news tips or story ideas about immigration in the Southwest? Reach the reporter at, or follow him on X (formerly Twitter): @RafaelCarranza.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Here's why Sen. Kyrsten Sinema voted against her own border deal