ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Chris Murphy is urging President Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats to “go on the offense” on immigration after a bipartisan border deal he helped negotiate was tanked by Republicans, led by former President Donald Trump, who called it insufficient.

“The vast majority of the country believes that we should have robust legal immigration but they want tighter control of the border. And right now, there’s only one party that can deliver that — only the Democrats support pathways to citizenship, support expanding legal pathways into the country and a tough border law,” Murphy, a Connecticut lawmaker, told ABC News “This Week” co-anchor Jonathan Karl.

Murphy also lauded Biden for visiting the border last week, where Biden publicly urged Trump to drop his opposition to the border agreement, as polls show immigration remains top of mind for some Americans at the same time that Biden’s handling of it is widely disapproved of.

“Republicans use the issue of immigration to try to divide us from each other,” Murphy argued, “and now, on the record, [they’re] opposing the toughest border reform bill, the toughest border security bill, in decades.”

The Senate proposal would have tied billions of dollars in new foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan to funds for enhancing security at the southern border — as well as an overhaul of immigration laws, including conservative priorities around restricting who can cross into the U.S. in certain situations.

But Republicans quickly shot down the bill, claiming its changes didn’t go far enough and wouldn’t adequately improve the situation.

Since then, Biden has been looking at the possibility of taking executive action to tighten asylum restrictions, ABC News previously reported.

Murphy told Karl on “This Week” that “I can’t tell you whether President Biden is going to move forward on executive action. What I can tell you is that the bipartisan bill had $20 billion of new resources. He can’t conjure $20 billion with an executive order that that bill gave him to shut down the border in between the ports of entry. I don’t think he can do that by executive action.”

He also downplayed the potential for Biden himself to be able to change the rules around asylum: “The president can’t modify those statutes with executive orders. And Republicans know this.”

“The reality is President Biden needs that legislation because it is just not true that he has the existing authority to issue executive actions that get the border under control,” Murphy said, reiterating the Democratic view that Republicans should be to blame for the border.

“Donald Trump and the Republicans decided that they want the border to be chaotic. It helps them politically, and polls show that if Democrats just tell that story, if the president tells that story, Republicans’ political advantage on the border is erased,” Murphy said.

However, ABC News/Ipsos polling show voters trust former President Trump more than Biden on the issue of immigration.

Karl pressed Murphy about Biden’s poor poll numbers on immigration and he deflected by pointing to issues at the border under the Trump administration.

Karl also pressed Murphy on Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and whether he believes Democrats should be “concerned” at anger with the president for not pushing for a permanent cease-fire or curbing military aid to Israel.

More than 100,000 people voted “uncommitted” in Michigan’s Democratic primary last week in protest of Biden’s stance, underscoring frustration with the way he has approached Israel’s prosecution of its operations against Hamas in the wake of Hamas’ terror attack.

“I don’t think we should be concerned about this as a political matter, because this is such a critical issue relative to America’s national security and the security of the Middle East,” Murphy said. “I would hope that the president doesn’t make decisions about what to do in Gaza or the Middle East based upon how the votes line up.”

“Listen, I think it is time for the president to use all the levers that he has to get a long-term cease-fire. I think if that cease-fire doesn’t come in, it’s in Israel’s interest for them to pause military activity to solve the humanitarian crisis,” Murphy continued.

The stakes for the Palestinians were too high, he said: “I think this is a critical moment where social order is unraveling inside Gaza.”

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