Conservative Republican senators criticized Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's leadership and celebrated the apparent failure of a bipartisan border security proposal in the Senate.
Sen. Ron Johnson, alongside other McConnell critics, expressed dissatisfaction with the leadership's decision-making process during a press briefing.
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) February 7, 2024
The unexpected development occurred after McConnell advised Republican senators in a private meeting to oppose a procedural vote to advance the legislation, despite initially endorsing the deal on Sunday.
McConnell's aim was to secure support from at least half of the Republican conference, which comprises 49 members.
A significant portion of the GOP opposes the bill, demanding stricter immigration policies in exchange for approving Ukraine aid. Senators Ted Cruz, Rick Scott, Roger Marshall, Mike Lee, Eric Schmitt, J.D. Vance, and Johnson voiced their grievances with the final deal and the negotiation process.
Former President Donald Trump's influence has reshaped the Republican conference, with newer members aligning more closely with Trump's views. Vance, a Trump loyalist, replaced McConnell's ally, former Senator Rob Portman.
The bill includes substantial funding for Ukraine, border security, Israel, humanitarian aid, Taiwan, and U.S. Central Command operations.
Johnson criticized the closed-door negotiations led by a bipartisan group, including Senators Chris Murphy, James Lankford, and Kyrsten Sinema, with input from the White House.
“When McConnell entered into this secret negotiation with Schumer, it was fatally flawed — no one knew what was in it,” Johnson said in a statement to the Washington Examiner.
“What was being leaked looked bad enough, but we weren’t trying to win the argument in the court of public opinion," he added.
Scott, who previously challenged McConnell's leadership, acknowledged limited options for the conference until after the November 2024 election, hinting at potential leadership changes that are unlikely to unfold, especially if Trump gains a White House win.