‘Even Worse Than We Expected’: Speaker Johnson Says Senate Border Deal’s a Nonstarter

Bipartisan package has three times as much funding for Ukraine than for securing the U.S.-Mexico border.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said the Senate’s bipartisan border deal will be “dead on arrival” in the House after negotiators unveiled the text of the much-anticipated bill late on Feb. 4.
“I’ve seen enough. This bill is even worse than we expected, and won’t come close to ending the border catastrophe the President has created. As the lead Democrat negotiator proclaimed: Under this legislation, ‘the border never closes,’” the speaker wrote on X.

“If this bill reaches the House, it will be dead on arrival,” he added.

Those comments echo Mr. Johnson’s prior criticism of the bill’s rumored contents, which he had also dismissed via social media with a curt, “Absolutely not.”

The $118 billion package, per President Joe Biden’s request, ties funding for border security to additional assistance for Ukraine’s war with Russia and Israel’s war with Hamas, as well as for U.S. partners in the Indo-Pacific facing aggression from China.

Specifically, the bill would authorize $20.23 billion for immigration enforcement, $60.06 billion in aid for Ukraine, $14.1 billion for Israel, $4.83 billion for the Indo-Pacific, and $2.44 billion for U.S. Central Command and the conflict in the Red Sea.

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Another $10 billion would bolster humanitarian relief efforts in Ukraine, Gaza, and the West Bank, though the funds would be barred from going to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, due to allegations that agency staff participated in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

The border security portion of the bill would give the Department of Homeland Security secretary the authority to temporarily shut down the border to most illegal immigrants if border crossings average more than 4,000 per day in one week. If encounters surpass an average of 5,000 per day—or 8,500 in just one day—the secretary would be required to activate that authority.

The bill would also impose new restrictions on the asylum application process and provide for the hiring of additional border personnel.

Mixed Reactions

Upon the package’s unveiling, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) lauded lead Republican negotiator Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) for ensuring that it included border security funding.

“America’s sovereignty is being tested here at home, and our credibility is being tested by emboldened adversaries around the world,” Mr. McConnell said in a statement.

“The challenges we face will not resolve themselves, nor will our adversaries wait for America to muster the resolve to meet them. The Senate must carefully consider the opportunity in front of us and prepare to act.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), meanwhile, praised the bipartisan efforts that produced the agreement, describing the bill’s priorities as “too important to ignore and too vital to allow politics to get in the way.”

But Mr. Johnson was not the only Republican to criticize the deal. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), for one, backed the speaker’s decision not to hold a vote on the bill.

“Let me be clear: The Senate Border Bill will NOT receive a vote in the House,” Mr. Scalise wrote on X.

“Here’s what the people pushing this ‘deal’ aren’t telling you: It accepts 5,000 illegal immigrants a day and gives automatic work permits to asylum recipients—a magnet for more illegal immigration.”

Likewise, Sen. Katie Britt (R-Ala.) said she opposed the deal because “it would not effectively stop President Biden from continuing his mass migration agenda.”

Alternative Israel Package

A day before the Senate released its bill, Mr. Johnson announced that the House would soon hold a vote on its own, standalone aid package for Israel.

“While the Senate appears poised to finally release the text of their supplemental package after months of behind-closed-doors negotiations, their leadership is aware that by failing to include the House in their negotiations, they have eliminated the ability for swift consideration of any legislation,” he wrote in a letter to his fellow Republican congressmen.

“Given the Senate’s failure to move appropriate legislation in a timely fashion and the perilous circumstances currently facing Israel, the House will continue to lead. Next week, we will take up and pass a clean, standalone Israel supplemental package.”

The $17.6 billion package includes funding to resupply Israel’s missile and rocket defense systems and ramp up production of munitions. The funding would also replenish resources the United States has provided to its Middle Eastern ally and help evacuate U.S. citizens from the region.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told NBC on Feb. 3 that the White House views the bill as a “ploy” to kill the Senate’s deal. But the speaker later denied that allegation in his own interview with the outlet, noting his previous criticisms of the Senate’s rumored proposal.

“We’ve made very clear what the requirements of the House were, and that is to solve the problem at the border,” he said.

And with the war in the Middle East escalating, Mr. Johnson said, the U.S. needs to provide aid sooner rather than later.

“Israel has never been in greater need of our support. And the House is serious about that. I believe we’ll pass this with a wide margin and take care of that responsibility,” he said.

Joseph Lord, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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