Border Deal is Dead on Arrival But We'll Continue This Fiction For a Bit
Stupidity, Washington style
The border-foreign aid deal faces even more difficult odds in the House. Speaker Mike Johnson said on NBC’s Meet The Press on Sunday that the House would take up a $17 billion Israel aid bill instead of the supplemental funding package. In a Saturday letter to House Republicans, Johnson had said the chamber would not swiftly consider the bipartisan deal.
Lankford and GOP allies hope that release of the text will dispel the notion that the bill would allow 5,000 undocumented immigrants to cross into the country daily. Under the parameters of the legislation and the current situation at the border, which sees crossings sometimes exceeding 10,000 per day, the border would be shut down to illegal crossings immediately.
The bill would preserve orderly asylum appointments at ports of entry as a way for immigrants to seek legal entry into the country, requiring that those ports process at least 1,400 migrants daily during periods when the border is shut down.
The legislation also includes the Fend Off Fentanyl Act and Afghan Adjustment Act as part of the larger deal. It would send about $62 billion to support Ukraine in its invasion against Russia, $14 billion in security aid for Israel, $10 billion in humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip and Ukraine, $20 billion for the border and nearly $5 billion to partners in the Indo-Pacific to fight Chinese aggression.
In addition to mandating a border shutdown at 5,000 daily encounters, the bill would allow the president to invoke that authority at 4,000 per day. Once the border is shut it would stay sealed to illegal crossings until encounters of unlawful crossings drop to about 2,000 per day. In addition, the use of presidential parole authority, which gives the president wider latitude to allow more undocumented immigrants into the country, would be curtailed. And the bill speeds up the asylum screening process significantly.
Lankford said he had hoped to release the bill earlier to get the process moving more quickly but the complexity of the language made that tricky: “The words matter.” The legislation is the most ambitious piece of immigration legislation to get serious congressional consideration in six years.
The conservative bloc compared the weekend bill with the “fully paid-for” November bill Johnson passed in support of Israel, his “most principled action taken to date.” But now, according to the House Freedom Caucus, the U.S. will be forced to borrow money to help its ally, adding to the U.S.’s national deficit.
“It is extremely disappointing that the Speaker is now surrendering to perceived pressure to move an even larger but now unpaid for Israel package — reversing course on his stance to require new supplemental spending to be offset,” the group wrote in its letter.
But the bill’s release Sunday night was like pouring gasoline on the fire that is the Senate GOP internal war. Senators and aides publicly and privately questioned whether a majority of the Republican Conference would back it, a key metric. There were even calls for an immediate leadership change from some GOP senators and conservative outside groups…
But hardline Senate GOP conservatives are furious over the proposal, saying it will do nothing to stop the flow of migrants trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. And after Schumer said Sunday, “I have never worked more closely with Leader McConnell on any piece of legislation as we did on this,” McConnell’s Republican critics pounced.
That prompted Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), a leading detractor of both the bill and McConnell, to quote-tweet us with this response: “The bromance continues…” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said, “That’s the problem.”
Lee later tweeted a call for “new leadership” and described the bill as a “disqualifying betrayal.” McConnell’s opponents clearly want to make a move against him. Whether that actually materializes is an entirely different question.
It’s hard to see how this bill will win over a majority of Senate Republicans at this point, which is what McConnell and others in leadership had sought. There’s already internal GOP discussion over whether McConnell — whom conservatives accuse of using the border provisions as cover for more Ukraine funding — will try to split the two off.
The path forward: Schumer reiterated Sunday night that the first procedural vote will be on Wednesday. This will be a critical test.
We expect several progressives to oppose the plan as well. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) did so on Sunday due to the Israel funding. Hispanic lawmakers and pro-immigration groups such as the ACLU are already taking aim at the changes to immigration policy. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) called it a “new version of Trump-era policies that will cause more chaos at the border.”
A Border Crisis By Design
The prospective Senate bill would reportedly let the president “shut down the border” if the average number of migrant crossings were to surpass 4,000 a day over the span of a week, and it would mandate such action if there were 8,500 illegal crossings on a given day. Oklahoma senator James Lankford, the sole Republican playing a lead role in the negotiations, appeared on Face the Nation on January 28 and suggested that he believes the Biden administration’s line that it is releasing so many aliens into the country because there are simply too many to detain them.
In truth, the reason why there are so many aliens to detain is because word has gotten out that if you come and request asylum, you’ll be released into the U.S.—and this has been the case since Biden took office. As Judge Wetherell put it in a 2023 immigration case, the Biden administration’s actions have been “akin to posting a flashing ‘Come In, We’re Open’ sign on the southern border.” As word has spread, the numbers at the border have massively increased, with the most recent month on record (December 2023) being the worst month to date.
For his part, Biden claims that if the prospective Senate bill “were the law today, I’d shut down the border right now and fix it quickly”—thereby implying that Congress is at fault. This flips the truth on its head. What’s more, even if the bill were to pass and Biden were to “shut down the border,” it’s not as if the flow would stop: people cross the border illegally on a daily basis already.
Such a “shutdown” would reportedly “suspend asylum [claims] in between official ports of entry” but apparently wouldn’t stop people from claiming asylum at the ports. According to CBS News, during a so-called shutdown of the border, the bill “would preserve asylum at official ports of entry”—indeed, it “would require U.S. border officials to continue processing more than 1,400 asylum-seekers daily at these official border crossings.” So, this means that another half-a-million illegal aliens would be released into the U.S. annually, even if the border were “shut down” all year.
In reality, having a “Come In, We’re Open” sign at each port of entry, while discouraging rampant crossings of the border between the ports, reflects the Biden administration’s goals. In a 2022 interview, Fox News anchor Bret Baier asked Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas whether “it is the objective of the Biden administration to reduce—sharply reduce—the total number of illegal immigrants coming across the southern border.” Strikingly, Mayorkas refused to answer yes, instead immediately replying, “It is the objective of the Biden administration to make sure that we have safe, legal, and orderly pathways for individuals to be able to access our legal system.”
A New Strategy For Ukraine
First, Ukraine’s military effort should focus more on defense. Kyiv needs to maintain the territory it still controls even as it prepares for counteroffensives. This includes Odesa, which provides access to the Black Sea—vital to Ukraine’s economy, which depends on exporting grain to international markets. Ukrainian forces should establish fortified defensive lines and use advanced sensors and drones to prevent future Russian land grabs.
Second, Ukraine needs to reduce its dependence on foreign assistance. Ukraine has a robust defense industry that is producing more weapons than before Russia’s 2022 invasion. Kyiv has signed more than 20 agreements with foreign partners for joint maintenance and production of weapons, giving it increased industrial capacity domestically and abroad. The German company Rheinmetall and Turkish firm Baykar plan to build facilities in Ukraine to produce tanks and drones, respectively. But the U.S. lags behind. Washington should foster joint ventures with Ukraine’s defense industry by helping U.S. defense firms mitigate the risks of doing business in a war zone and reducing regulations, including restrictions on technology transfers under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.
Third, the U.S. and others should help Ukraine build an enhanced air- and missile-defense network. Ukraine needs to defend itself from Russia’s brutal air campaign. Western allies should reallocate Patriot batteries from other parts of Europe to Ukraine and cooperate with Kyiv to develop low-tech, low-cost defenses against drones and other battlefield weapons.
Fourth, Ukraine should target Russian supply lines in eastern Ukraine and western Russia. This would disrupt Russian logistics and complicate Moscow’s effort to consolidate its territorial gains. The U.S. and Europe should let Ukraine use the weapons they supply to target Russian forces in Russia that are attacking Ukraine. The same should apply to Russian supply lines and logistics.
Fifth, Ukraine should step up the threat to Russia’s vulnerable military position in Crimea. This should include long-range strikes as well as special operations against Russian forces, bases and supply lines. Why the Kerch Bridge to Russia remains standing is a mystery.
Trump’s Plans for VP Pick
Trump said he wouldn't announce his pick for vice president for "a while," during a pre-recorded interview on Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures" with host Maria Bartiromo.
"I mean, we have so many great people in the Republican Party, but not for a while," he said.
Trump said his criteria for a running mate includes one question: "It's got to be who would [be] able to be a good president. I mean, you always have to think that because you know, a civil emergency … things happen right? No matter who you are, things happen. It's got to be number one."
"I called Tim Scott this week — because a lot of people like Tim Scott — I called him, and I said: 'You are a much better candidate for me than you are for yourself.'"
"I watched him over the last two weeks. As you know, he endorsed me, fully endorsed me, gave me a beautiful endorsement, and he has been really strong in terms of that, but ... I don't want anybody to take even any inference, but it's incredible," he added.
Items of Interest
“[White] guilt is the vacuum in moral authority created by all of white America’s moral failings and infidelities to democracy: racism, sexism, imperialism, materialism, conformity, environmental indifference, educational inequality, superficiality, greed, and so on.”
— Shelby Steele