The Senate has finally released its long-discussed, much-debated, bipartisan border package. Despite their demands for many of the increased security measures the bill would provide, House Republicans are setting aside their self-proclaimed commitment to border reform in favor of blocking a potential PR victory for the Biden administration.
Only hours after the 370-page document was released, House Republican leadership was already shutting the doors on its prospects in the lower chamber.
“I’ve seen enough. This bill is even worse than we expected, and won’t come close to ending the border catastrophe the President has created,” House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) wrote Sunday on X (formerly Twitter). “If this bill reaches the House, it will be dead on arrival.”
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise added in his own X post that “the Senate Border Bill will NOT receive a vote in the House,” and claimed that the legislation was simply “a magnet for more illegal immigration.”
GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik wrote that the bill is “an absolute non-starter” that would “further incentivize thousands of illegals to pour in across our borders daily.”
Still, the provisions in the legislation would drastically reshape border enforcement in alignment with many of the demands Republicans have made in the past.
The reforms would increase the scrutiny and standards required for an asylum claim to be accepted, reduce the processing timeline to months instead of years, provide funding for increased migrant detention capacity, and limit the president’s authority to parole migrants who make undocumented crossings. The Department of Homeland Security would also be required to shut down the border to asylum claims if the daily average of crossings surpasses 5,000 per day. The bill does not — contrary to some claims — provide mass amnesty to undocumented migrants, nor does it provide a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers,” the children of undocumented migrants who were brought to the United States at a young age.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), one of the chief architects of the legislation, lambasted his Republican colleagues during a Monday appearance on Fox News. “Are we as Republicans going to have press conferences and complain the border is bad, and then intentionally leave it open?” Lankford said in response to Johnson’s tweet.
“Are we gonna just complain about things or actually address and change as many things as we can?” he added. “It’s amazing to me, if I go back two months ago to say ‘we had a shot under a Democrat president to dramatically increase detention beds, deportation flights, lock down the border to be able to change the asylum laws, to be able to accelerate the process’ no one would be able to believe it — and now no one actually wants to be able to fix it?”
"Are we just gonna complain about things?" — Lankford on Fox & Friends criticizes Mike johnson for dumping on the border bill before he read it pic.twitter.com/4oz1dEiT8z
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 5, 2024
But while Lankford pressed his colleagues on their obligation to put their votes where their mouths are, other Republicans in Congress have conveniently decided that it’s simply not their job to fix the border, but rather to help prevent President Joe Biden from gaining a potential policy win he could tout in his near inevitable rematch with Donald Trump.
Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) declared on Tuesday that “Congress doesn’t have to do anything to secure our southern border and fix it,” he said in a video exclusively obtained by Rolling Stone.
“Why would I help Joe Biden approve his dismal 33 percent [approval rating] when he can fix the border and secure it on his own? He can secure it on his own through executive order.” Nehls added while waving around a cigar outside of the Capitol. He went on to cite former President Donald Trump’s slew of executive orders addressing immigration, many of which were ultimately found to be unconstitutional.
The former president himself has been directly influencing efforts to tank the proposed bill. As previously reported by Rolling Stone, Trump has privately complained to his advisers that in supporting the proposed legislation, “stupid” Republicans could be handing Biden a major victory in the months before the two men will almost certainly go head to head in a rematch for the presidency. Speaker Johnson admitted to Fox News in January that he and the president had been communicating directly about the bill’s future, but denied over the weekend that Trump himself was “calling the shots.”
On Monday morning, Trump took to Truth Social to voice his thoughts about the recently released legislation. “This Bill is a great gift to the Democrats, and a Death Wish for The Republican Party. It takes the HORRIBLE JOB the Democrats have done on Immigration and the Border, absolves them, and puts it all squarely on the shoulders of Republicans,” Trump wrote, adding that the bill “only gives Shutdown Authority after 5000 Encounters a day, when we already have the right to CLOSE THE BORDER NOW.”
As Lankford told Newsmax later on Monday, “I would remind folks that during the Trump administration, we also had days of more than 4,000 people that were illegally crossing the border under the Trump administration in 2019 and they were struggling because there were gaps and loopholes in the law.”
But the Oklahoman senator’s pleas are falling on deaf ears in the House, where it seems Republicans remain more committed to complaining about the border than actually doing anything about it.
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