The White House is ratcheting up its attacks on House Republicans over migration at the border, aiming to turn their opposition to a deal to address the crisis into a political anvil for them.
In a memo expected to be released Wednesday, White House officials took aim at House Speaker Mike Johnson for holding up the administration’s border funding requests in the past as well as undermining the Senate effort now.
“Despite arguing for 6 straight years that presidents need new legal authority to secure the border, and despite claiming to agree with President Biden on the need for hiring more Border Patrol agents and deploying new fentanyl detection equipment, Speaker Johnson is now the chief impediment to all 3,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates wrote in a strategy memo first obtained by POLITICO.
Some rank-and-file members have “outright admitted [to blocking a deal] for political purposes, after hearing from former President Trump,” he said.
The memo marks a significant uptick in rhetoric from administration officials. Immediately after former President Donald Trump came out against the Senate talks, the White House stayed largely silent in hopesof salvaging a bipartisan compromise.
The White House and House speaker now appear engaged in an effort to put responsibility on the other for failing to address the surge of migrants at the border. It’s come amid an uncertain fate for a potential Senate deal that would tie border policy to significant funding for Ukraine and Israel. Polls show Republicans have typically done better with the public on questions of which party has a better response to the border and immigration.
Johnson’s camp has blamed President Joe Biden for reversing Trump-era border regulations that led to an uptick in migrants crossing the border.
Bates in his memo listed four moments in which House Republicans have opposed Biden’s border asks, including fiscal 2022 and 2023 funding requests and two supplemental funding requests.
In response, Johnson’s office pointed to its own early January memo, arguing that, despite House Republicans providing plenty of funding for border security, Biden’s policies are the problem.
“In a desperate attempt to shift blame for a crisis their policies have induced, they have argued it’s a funding problem,” wrote spokesperson Raj Shah in that memo. “Clearly, they have no facts to back up their claim.”
Johnson said the package doesn’t do enough to address the border and rejected the idea that he’s opposing it because Trump does.
The Senate has yet to unveil details of their negotiations, but Johnson last week declared the measure “dead on arrival” in his chamber based on his knowledge of the proposal. The White House is now trying to take advantage of the GOP’s opposition.
Johnson and other Republicans, including former president Trump, say legislation is not needed to resolve the border crisis and that Biden has executive authority he is not using. But Trump, as president, requested similar authorities that Biden is asking for now. And the House GOP position a few weeks ago was that the Senate should take up the House’s conservative border legislation, H.R. 2.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), the lead Republican in the negotiations, has blasted members of his own party for opposing a potential border agreement because of politics.
“Republicans four months ago … locked arms together and said, ‘We’re not going to give you money for this. We want a change in law,’” Lankford said on Fox News Sunday. “A few months later, when we’re finally getting to the end, they’re like, ‘Oh, just kidding. I actually don’t want a change in law because it’s a presidential election year.’”
Johnson’s promise that any Senate border deal would die in the House has all but sealed its fate. But it has also undermined what tenuous Republican support existed in the Senate, making it uncertain that any agreement would reach that chamber’s floor.
The Senate plan — the text of which has not been released — is expected to speed up the asylum process as well as require the U.S. to close the border if more than 5,000 migrants cross on any given day.