Speaker Mike Johnson on Tuesday savaged a bipartisan border security deal that senators are working to finalize this week, calling it insufficient to secure the southern border.
“It seems the authority to shut down the border would kick in only after as many as 5,000 illegal crossings happen a day. Why? Why would we do that?” he asked during a press conference. “That would be surrender. The goal should be zero illegal crossings a day.”
Asked about rumblings of the deal, which the speaker said he’s yet to see the text of, Johnson said: “I hope some of this is not true.” Johnson has repeatedly criticized the deal in the last week, saying in a statement it could be “dead on arrival” in the House if the rumors about its contents were true.
“What’s been suggested is in this bill is not enough to secure the border,” he added.
The bill’s advocates say that the actual amount of illegal crossings would be much lower. The Department of Homeland Security would be required to shut down illegal crossings if the daily average of encounters surpasses 5,000 migrants or if a one-day total surpasses 8,500. DHS would have the authority to shut the border down at 4,000 encounters per day, however, and Biden has signaled he would aggressively use that authority.
Once the mandatory shutdown is enforced, it would take two weeks of starkly lower illegal crossings (about 2,000) to reopen the border to crossings other than asylum appointments at ports of entry. As a result of high illegal crossing numbers, the border shutdown could continue for weeks or months until the numbers go down.
Johnson is due to deliver a floor speech on border security later on Tuesday. The speaker denied that House objections to the legislation was being done to aid former President Donald Trump in his bid to return to the White House.
“That’s absurd,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to use every ounce of leverage that we have to make sure this issue is addressed.”
Burgess Everett contributed to this report.