More Republicans on Capitol Hill turned on the latest Senate border deal Monday, taking issue with more than $20 billion earmarked to effectively expedite migrant processing into the US — as former President Donald Trump called it a “great gift to the Democrats.”
“I can’t support a bill that doesn’t secure the border, provides taxpayer funded lawyers to illegal immigrants and gives billions to radical open borders groups. I’m a no,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Steve Daines (R-Mont.).
“President Biden should instead use his executive authority to reinstitute the Trump policies he canceled: Remain in Mexico, Title 42, Wall construction,” added the Montanan.
The bill does include $650 million in funding for southern border wall construction and a Title 42-style authority to shut down the border when migrant crossings exceed a 5,000-per-day average over a one-week period.
But GOP border hawks have taken issue with the authority in the hours since the text was released Sunday night, pointing out that asylum seekers can still be processed at ports of entry and that the president can also suspend that provision if he considers it in the “national interest.”
Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) noted that Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) — one of the three negotiators of the legislation along with Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) — had acknowledged “the border never closes” under the proposed law.
“Biden can say anything is in the ‘national interest’ and thereby suspend the ‘border emergency authority.’ Don’t pretend to be surprised when he does,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) added. “Or better yet — don’t pass this hot mess!”
“Only a fool, or a Radical Left Democrat, would vote for this horrendous Border Bill, which only gives Shutdown Authority after 5000 Encounters a day, when we already have the right to CLOSE THE BORDER NOW, which must be done,” Trump posted Monday morning on his Truth Social account.
“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. Don’t be STUPID!!! We need a separate Border and Immigration Bill. It should not be tied to foreign aid in any way, shape, or form! The Democrats broke Immigration and the Border. They should fix it. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!!!”
In a subsequent post, Trump added: “The ridiculous ‘Border’ Bill is nothing more than a highly sophisticated trap for Republicans to assume the blame on what the Radical Left Democrats have done to our Border, just in time for our most important EVER Election. Don’t fall for it!!!”
Both Senate and House Republicans have also referenced recent comments by former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who said that a mere 1,000 illegal border crossings per day “overwhelms the system.”
In December, US Customs and Border Protection encountered a record-breaking 302,034 migrants trying to enter the country through the southern border, meaning nearly 10,000 were stopped daily.
“Currently, if the border is overrun, the default [position] is, ‘Release everyone into the country.’ This changes the paradigm 180 degrees. When the border’s being overrun, everyone is deported,” Lankford told reporters on a phone call Sunday night, adding that it would remain shut down for a three-week period.
He added that other changes to “catch and release” policies would help with the expedited removal of asylum seekers who have no legitimate claim, with enhanced screening of migrants for terror and criminal threats and expulsion within 90 days, not years, if they do not meet the standards.
The increased funding would also provide for more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and provide 50,000 more beds for processing of migrants, cutting down on a backlog of 3 million asylum cases.
Several of the most controversial provisions, which comprise a large subsection of the total $118 billion emergency national security package requested by the president, had already been leaked in the past month — including the emergency presidential authority, legal counsel for unaccompanied migrant children and those deemed mentally incompetent, and funds for non-governmental groups that assist illegal aliens.
The last item amounts to $1.4 billion from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for NGOs to provide sheltering and other services, which Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) said would use taxpayer money “to buy off Democrat sanctuary city mayors” such as Eric Adams of New York.
“The ‘border’ bill released tonight includes an eye-popping $1.4B for NGOs to resettle illegal aliens in your communities via airplane tickets and hotel rooms (nearly double the record amount from FY23), including $933M available immediately without conditions,” Hagerty said.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro “Mayorkas has refused to provide Congress transparency about this program, yet this bill rewards him with a record-level payoff. This is unacceptable,” added the Tennessean.
Another controversial measure shifts judicial review of asylum determinations and the executive emergency authority to the District of Columbia — the jurisdiction currently presiding over Trump’s 2020 election interference case.
Some Senate GOP staff saw this as a win over giving such cases to other Democrat-leaning courts in Washington state, Oregon, California and Maryland — but others called the DC Circuit an equally flawed jurisdiction.
Both Biden and Mayorkas hailed the legislation, with the former pledging to sign it into law if it passes the House and heads to his desk and the latter calling it “tough” but “fair.”
But House Republican leadership said any consideration by the Senate was a “waste of time,” noting further inclusions of 50,000 work visas for migrants and Mayorkas’ track record of using his authority “to keep the border open.”
“America’s sovereignty is at stake,” said House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) and GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY).
“Any consideration of this Senate bill in its current form is a waste of time. It is DEAD on arrival in the House. We encourage the US Senate to reject it.”
Daines added in a Monday statement that “with House Republicans united in opposition to this bill it makes no sense to bring it up in the Senate” and vowed to vote “no” if it is brought to the floor this week. The measure requires 60 votes to clear the filibuster.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said he will call a vote on the bill by Wednesday, but the House has prepared an impeachment vote against Mayorkas for around the same time.
If the latter is passed, that would trigger an immediate Senate trial to determine whether to convict, likely hindering moderate Republicans’ chances of persuading their reluctant colleagues in the upper chamber.