President Biden fought Friday to save a bipartisan immigration deal from collapsing in Congress, vowing to close the border if the plan became law, even as the Republican president declared it dead on arrival in the House.
In a written statement that came as Senate negotiators raced to finalize a deal that former President Donald J. Trump is pressuring Republicans to oppose, Biden used his toughest language yet on the border, declaring it “broken” and in “crisis”. and he promises to stop migration immediately if Congress sends him the proposal.
“What has been negotiated, if it becomes law, would be the toughest and fairest set of reforms to secure the border that we have ever had in our country,” he said. “It would give me, as president, new emergency authority to close the border when it becomes overwhelmed. And if they gave me that authority, I would use it the day I sign the bill.”
The pending commitment would not give him many options. Under the emerging agreement, the administration would be required to close the border to migrants attempting to enter without prior authorization if encounters exceed 5,000 on a given day, a threshold that has been routinely exceeded in recent months.
Biden’s new efforts to save the deal came hours after President Mike Johnson tried to drown out the last glimmers of hope that it could survive, repeating that the deal would almost certainly be a failure in the Republican-led House.
“If the rumors about the contents of the draft bill are true, it would have been dead on arrival in the House anyway,” Johnson wrote in a letter to House Republican lawmakers.
It was the latest gloomy prediction for the proposed border deal after the Senate’s top Republican admitted this week that Trump’s opposition had made the plan politically difficult for the party to accept, all but killing its chances.
Biden’s statement Friday night represented a counterblow to Trump’s efforts to undo the deal, pitting current and former commanders in chief against each other in a high-stakes fight over what is shaping up to be a central issue in the negotiations. presidential election. Campaign.
As the immigration plan falters on Capitol Hill, the fate of additional aid to Ukraine also hangs in the balance, with far-right House Republicans also entrenched against it and threatening to depose Johnson if he tries to push through it despite of your objections. .
In his letter, Johnson said the House would move forward next week with its campaign to remove Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the secretary of homeland security, and redoubled his demands that Congress adopt an immigration crackdown bill. that the House passed last year or an equally harsh measure.
“From the day I took office, I have assured our Senate colleagues that the House would not accept any counterproposal if it did not truly resolve the problems created by this administration’s subversive policies,” he wrote.
Biden’s words are unlikely to move the growing number of skeptical Republicans who have argued that the president already has the tools and executive power he needs to sharply restrict who enters the country — and refuses to use them.
“Many of our constituents have asked an important question: ‘What is the point of negotiating new laws with an administration that will not enforce the laws already in place?’” Johnson wrote in his letter. “If President Biden wants us to believe he is serious about protecting our national sovereignty, he must demonstrate his good faith by taking immediate steps to ensure it.”
The letter reflects a stance Johnson and other far-right House Republicans have held for months, repeatedly dismissing border control measures being discussed in the Senate as insufficient. It came as Republican proponents of the deal in the Senate struggled to get the Republican support needed to push it forward. That task has become much more difficult as Trump, who has fiercely attacked the plan, has gained ground in his pursuit of the party’s presidential nomination.
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, told his Republican colleagues behind closed doors this week that Trump’s hostility to the plan and his increasing dominance in the primaries had put them “in a dilemma.”
McConnell, a leading Republican advocate for sending more aid to Ukraine, has been a strong supporter of the border deal that members of his party have insisted on as the price for their support for continued assistance to kyiv.
The bipartisan team of senators that has been working for months to reach a compromise to combat rampant migration and drug trafficking across the southern border with Mexico has reached agreement in recent days on a series of policy changes. They include measures to make it harder to obtain asylum, increase detention centers and force the administration to turn away immigrants without visas if more than 5,000 people try to cross into the country illegally on a given day.
The group has not yet agreed on how much money it will devote to the effort.
Many Republicans are upset that the deal does not include a specific restriction on parole, the administration’s authority to allow immigrants who would not otherwise be legally permitted to enter the country to live and work in the United States temporarily. In his letter on Friday, Johnson repeated his demand for more restrictive changes, such as imposing strict limits on parole and reviving the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy that forced immigrants who could not stay in detention centers to wait outside. United States until their hearing dates.
And some Republicans who oppose the border compromise have questioned the wisdom of bothering to consider it in the Senate if their counterparts in the House are determined to block or overturn it.
“If you’re going to take a tough vote, you want to actually accomplish something,” said Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio. “If it’s not going to pass the House, then there’s not much point in forcing a vote among its members that’s not going to accomplish anything from a political perspective, and it’s going to cause a lot of political problems. .”