It was late on a Thursday afternoon within the marbled halls of the Senate, and a small group of negotiators — one Republican, one Democrat and one impartial — had nearly completed a painstakingly put collectively border safety compromise it took them months to forge.

However what ought to have been a triumphant second felt extra like an ordeal for the lone Republican within the trio.

“I really feel just like the man standing in the midst of the sector in a thunderstorm, holding up the steel stick,” Senator James Lankford, the Oklahoma Republican who was his celebration’s lead dealer of the deal, instructed reporters final week.

The plight of Mr. Lankford, a slim, understated Baptist minister with a neatly combed shock of purple hair and a baritone voice that repeatedly delivers deadpan quips, displays the extraordinary rise and fall of the border and Ukraine deal that’s anticipated to break down in a check vote within the Senate on Wednesday — and the political forces inside the Republican Get together that introduced it down.

For months, Mr. Lankford, a staunch conservative, labored over the bundle alongside Senators Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, and Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona impartial, demanding strict immigration insurance policies his celebration insisted have to be part of any invoice to ship a recent infusion of help to Ukraine. However when Mr. Lankford managed to extract them, he discovered his fellow Republicans unwilling to embrace the plan, in a vivid illustration of how the political floor for any compromise on immigration has vanished for a celebration that has determined the difficulty is simply too worthwhile as a political weapon to resolve.

Mr. Lankford, who beforehand ran the most important Christian youth camp within the nation and has spoken typically about how his religion guides his coverage positions, has been left to select up the items, a course of he dryly likened on Tuesday to having been run over by a bus — after which having it again up over him once more.

The soft-spoken second-term Republican, who typically refrains from searching for the political limelight, didn’t volunteer to helm the border negotiations after they started within the fall. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority chief, deputized him as the highest Republican on the Senate’s border safety subcommittee. Or as Mr. Lankford put it, he drew the “quick straw when it got here time to have the ability to negotiate all this.”

His Republican colleagues warned him to watch out.

“I instructed him he was going to be like a goalie on a dart staff weeks in the past,” stated Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, who was supportive of the talks however got here out this week in opposition to the invoice. “He knew this was a treacherous path, however I’ve nothing however reward for Senator Lankford. I believe he’s carried out the perfect job you can presumably do underneath the circumstances. It’s only a very, very, very tough, complicated scenario.”

Simply as Mr. Lankford and his fellow negotiators neared a deal, former President Donald J. Trump stepped in, trashing the invoice each earlier than and after it was launched on Sunday and opening the floodgates of Republican resistance. That left Mr. Lankford preventing to maintain the deal alive whereas being attacked by members of his personal celebration, together with in his dwelling state, the place the Republican Get together tried to censure him late final month for “playing fast and loose with Democrats on our border policy.” (The decision was later rescinded.)

Mr. Lankford stated he was solely the newest in a protracted line of lawmakers who had been burned by failed efforts to push through a bipartisan immigration deal.

“This solely occurs about each decade or so — to attempt to work on border safety — as a result of it’s so contentious, and it takes folks a decade to overlook what occurred to these individuals,” he stated on Monday, “and within the course of, to have the ability to take the chance once more.”

The bill he helped write would impose probably the most important border restrictions Congress has thought of in many years, together with measures to lift the bar for asylum claims, increase detention capability and shut down the border if greater than a mean of 5,000 migrants per day try to cross in per week, or greater than 8,500 attempt to cross in any given day. It displays a paradigm shift in how Congress has thought of fashionable immigration and border coverage, with no point out of pathways towards legalization for undocumented immigrants at present within the nation, beforehand a plank of any immigration coverage Democrats may negotiate.

Nonetheless, Republicans have rejected the plan, with the arduous proper calling it too weak and extra mainstream members together with Mr. McConnell saying they’re merely bowing to the political actuality that it has no path by means of Congress.

The irony shouldn’t be misplaced on Mr. Lankford.

Republicans “really locked arms collectively and stated: ‘We’re not going to present you cash for this. We wish a change in regulation,’” Mr. Lankford stated on “Fox Information Sunday” late final month. “Now it’s attention-grabbing, a couple of months later — once we’re lastly going to the top — they’re like: ‘Oh, simply kidding. I really don’t need a change in regulation, as a result of it’s a presidential election yr.’”

Democrats and Republicans each regard Mr. Lankford as severe, policy-focused, reliable and firmly conservative.

“I made a decision to do that as a result of James was going to be my associate,” stated Mr. Murphy, who spent numerous hours in a room within the Capitol with Mr. Lankford, poring over the main points of the bundle. “He involves politics by means of a need to enact change, not as a result of he loves the rough-and-tumble of political life. At some stage, he’s a little bit of a throwback. That in all probability causes him some issues once you’re thrown into the combo of one of the crucial tough, most controversial points in American politics.”

Mr. Lankford is “a extremely revered and conservative member of our convention who’s prepared to do the arduous factor,” Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Republican, stated.

His consideration to element was a part of the rationale it took so lengthy to cement a deal, Mr. Murphy stated.

“James was dedicated to figuring out each single piece of this invoice in and out, in order that finally he might defend it,” he stated. “Clearly, Trump has made his life tough.”

On Monday, as Speaker Mike Johnson, Republican of Louisiana, declared the invoice “even worse than we anticipated,” Mr. Trump singled out Mr. Lankford for disdain, telling the conservative commentator Dan Bongino on his show that the settlement was a “very unhealthy invoice” for Mr. Lankford’s profession — “and particularly in Oklahoma.”

Mr. Lankford, who won re-election in 2022 with 64 p.c of the vote, shouldn’t be because of face voters once more till 2028, and it was not clear whether or not his involvement within the deal would damage him in a state the place he enjoys a reservoir of fine will.

Mr. Lankford “had honorable intentions, however he took on a herculean activity,” Chad Alexander, the previous chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Get together, stated in an interview. “The sentiment has gotten much more intense since he started this 4 months in the past. And now it’s a powder keg.”

In some methods, Mr. Lankford’s involvement within the effort remembers a really completely different political second many years in the past, when evangelical Christians have been influential voices on the proper in favor of humane immigration insurance policies, together with welcoming refugees and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented folks.

“He’s completely guided by his religion and the worth he locations on every life,” Pat McFerron, an Oklahoma pollster and political marketing consultant, stated in a textual content message. “Each individual is made in God’s picture. The eagerness he has right here is not any completely different than his ardour for serving to the unborn.”

Mr. Lankford has beforehand discovered himself swept up within the crosscurrents of Republican politics. After the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, Mr. Lankford apologized to Black constituents in Oklahoma for having supported Mr. Trump’s try to overturn the election in Congress, saying he had not realized that his stance could be seen as an assault on their voting rights.

He has additionally taken on different intractable political issues earlier than. He labored carefully with Senator Tim Scott, the lone Black senator within the G.O.P., on Republican legislation to address systemic racism in regulation enforcement, and he sought to bridge racial divides and attitudes about race inside the G.O.P. throughout widespread racial justice protests in 2020.

None of it has been trickier than the border effort. On Monday, because the invoice’s possibilities appeared more and more dismal, he went on a media blitz, attempting to clarify a provision within the bundle that Republicans have misrepresented as permitting 5,000 undocumented immigrants into the nation each day. He identified that Republicans have repeatedly stated there’s a disaster on the border and that Congress wanted to move new laws — a message Democrats are already deploying towards the G.O.P.

“Are we as Republicans going to have press conferences and complain the border’s unhealthy, after which deliberately go away it open after the worst month in American historical past in December?” Mr. Lankford stated on “Fox & Pals,” including that few had thought Republicans might safe such important coverage concessions from Democrats.

“Nobody would have believed it,” Mr. Lankford stated. “And now nobody really desires to have the ability to repair it.”

On Tuesday, whilst his colleagues have been calling the compromise useless, Mr. Lankford refused to surrender.

“The Scripture references say you’re employed so long as there’s daylight, so I’m going to maintain working till we all know it’s bought no probability to have the ability to transfer anymore, as a result of I actually assume the difficulty must be resolved,” he stated.

That was not the prevailing perspective amongst Republicans, notably hard-right lawmakers who have been exultant on the collapse of his effort.

To a protracted thread Mr. Lankford posted on social media attempting to defend the invoice, Consultant Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, responded bluntly: “Simply take the L.”

Karoun Demirjian and Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.





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