Opinion: Another missed chance on the border in Congress

House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., center, listens as House Majority Whip Tom Emmer of Minn., right, speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024 in Washington. House Republicans' effort to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas failed on Tuesday. At left is Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., center, listens as House Majority Whip Tom Emmer of Minn., right, speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024 in Washington. House Republicans' effort to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas failed on Tuesday. At left is Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

It’s hard to imagine how Republicans in Congress could top their grand debacle of 2023 when they booted out their own House Speaker and then spent three weeks battling over a replacement.

But this week might get an honorable mention, as GOP Senators ran from a bipartisan border security deal, even though they had demanded such a plan for months.

“It’s stunning,” said U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, as Republicans swiftly tossed aside a border bill worked out by U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla.

“For Senate Republicans to deliberately tank bipartisan border security efforts out of political fear or opportunism or loyalty to Donald Trump is an abdication of their basic governing responsibilities,” the Georgia Democrat told me.

The speed of the rebuff even shocked Lankford, a conservative border hawk from Oklahoma, who was rewarded for months of negotiations by being thrown under the bus by his GOP colleagues.

“Americans are ticked off that this is not resolved,” Lankford argued in vain. “They expect us to get things done.”

No one should have been surprised. We’ve seen failure before in Congress on immigration in 2006, 2013, and 2018.

“It is a tough needle to thread,” acknowledged former U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who eagerly recounted from back in Georgia how he had gotten tangled up in immigration battles during his time on Capitol Hill.

But there was one major difference this time — this agreement was tilted dramatically towards Republicans.

Usually, ‘immigration reform’ features GOP calls for border security paired with Democrats backing a pathway to citizenship for those in the U.S. illegally.

Not this time.

“My Democratic colleagues wanted to have some amnesty,” Lankford said. “There’s not anything on amnesty in this bill.”

But that wasn’t good enough for GOP lawmakers.

As the border deal went down the drain, House Republicans tried to make their own statement by impeaching the Secretary of Homeland Security.

But in a big surprise, that failed by a single vote.

“This should be a layup impeachment vote,” lamented U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome. But it wasn’t. Instead, it was another embarrassing setback for House Speaker Mike Johnson.

“We’re governing here, sometimes it’s messy,” the Speaker said, as he heard more GOP criticism of his leadership choices.

“Getting rid of Speaker McCarthy has officially turned into an unmitigated disaster,” said U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky.

Democrats could only shake their heads at the GOP infighting, which has forced the Speaker to rely on Democrats to get important bills passed.

“It’s very chaotic,” said U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia. “But some folks are here to legislate and to help govern.”

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com

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