Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
It’s a rare moment indeed when the overwhelming majority of the nation agrees on something, and rarer still when that tidal wave of sentiment leads to precisely no meaningful response from the federal government.
Such has been the case of late along the southern border, where each day record numbers of people seek entry, by means legal and illegal, while criminals smuggle illicit drugs and other humans in, quite literally, by the truckload as a matter of routine.
It’s the sort of moment that, in less charged times, would have been met with a swarm of action by suddenly cooperative Republicans and Democrats. And, on the rhetorical front, both the left and right are saying effectively the same thing.
The problem is, at least at the federal level, the two sides are also achieving the same result, which is to say nothing.
“For too long, going back decades, the immigration system has been broken,” President Joe Biden said in a statement Wednesday. “It’s time to fix it.”
Those remarks – beyond being stark in contrast to the official line of the early Biden presidency, when people in the administration refused to acknowledge there was a crisis at the border – were meant primarily to set the stage for Biden to bash Republicans before the Senate voted on the measure.
“House Republicans have to decide. Do they want to solve the problem? Or do they want to keep playing politics with the border?” Biden said. “I’ve made my decision. I’m ready to solve the problem.”
Although pressure from House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and former President Donald Trump certainly factored into the math, it wasn’t House Republicans who killed the brokered deal.
Ultimately, a combination of most Republican senators and a small group of liberals killed the deal in the Senate.
Vermont progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democratic Sens. Ed Markey (Mass.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), Alex Padilla (Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) also opposed the measure.
“The political purpose of the horrible border bill was to give Democrats political cover for the Biden Border Crisis,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) posted on X. “Don’t believe the lies the media is pushing out about the bill.”
The political purpose of the horrible border bill was to give Democrats political cover for the Biden Border Crisis.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) February 8, 2024
In a different post, Cruz was even more forceful.
“Joe Biden is siding with the Mexican drug cartels against Texas,” Cruz said. “The image of the illegal aliens walking out of jail and flipping off the American people is the visual representation of the Biden campaign. Biden stands against law enforcement and American families.”
Joe Biden is siding with the Mexican drug cartels against Texas.
The image of the illegal aliens walking out of jail and flipping off the American people is the visual representation of the Biden campaign.
Biden stands against law enforcement and American families. pic.twitter.com/XBTYKJWXIm
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) February 8, 2024
Not that Democrats were beyond fingerpointing.
“How many times have we heard Republicans say there’s an emergency at the border?” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) posted on X. “Well apparently, all that was for show, and Republicans aren’t serious about fixing the border. The about-face Republicans have done on [the] border is stunning.”
WHY THE BILL DIED
It would have been interesting to see how the vote played out had funding for Ukraine and Israel not been included. Republicans were initially leveraging support for wartime spending as a means to get concessions on the border, so the language was included.
However, Sanders attributed his no vote to the fact that the compromise contained funding for Israel. His was a single vote, but an important one in a closely divided Senate.
Republicans stated that the compromise would make matters worse and not better at the border. The general thought was that the bill might secure the border, but it would not slow the influx of people into the country.
Trump called the legislation a “death wish” for Republicans, and his opposition likely proved the most consequential reason for the bill’s failure.
Among the key sticking points for conservatives was language in the bill that would grant asylum to thousands.
Cruz argued that the bill would have “codified Biden’s open borders,” a sentiment shared by many Republican officials.
Johnson said the bill would have served as a “magnet” for illegal immigration and was “riddled” with complexities and loopholes that would do little to quell the inflow or speed the outflow of people denied entry to the United States.
Senate negotiators were left flummoxed.
“I’m a little confused how it’s worse than they expected when it builds border wall, expands deportation flights, expands ICE officers, border patrol officers, detention beds … how it creates a faster process for deportations, clears up a lot of the long-term issues and loopholes that have existed in the asylum law and then gets us an emergency authority that stops the chaos right now on the border,” Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) told reporters earlier in the week.
There has been wide speculation on the left that Republicans are keen to allow the border crisis to continue as a means of further damaging Biden’s reelection campaign.
This belief is being driven by consistent polling that shows immigration is perhaps the greatest weakness of the Biden presidency. ABC News, which created a numerical breakdown of American attitudes about immigration, referred to Biden’s approval rating in the area of immigration as “dismal.”
An oft-overlooked issue in the compromise bill is the fact that it would have granted Biden unprecedented authority to close the southern border in times of crisis.
While on the face the measure would seem agreeable to the right – it’s hard to imagine Republicans bristling at the idea of Trump closing the border – conservatives cited a profound lack of trust in Biden as a reason for standing against the measure.
“If you give extraordinary authority to the very architect of the catastrophe, it will do no good,” Johnson said.
WHAT COMES NEXT?
At present, border legislation seems off the table in Congress, which has left Biden scrambling for a way to salvage what has proven unsalvageable for him over the past three years.
He could pressure Vice President Kamala Harris, who long ago was tabbed as the border Czar responsible for addressing the problem, but she’s shown little interest in the matter beyond stock answers and platitudes.
The more likely scenario is that Biden could use an executive order to address some elements of the border crisis, although such an action would not provide the type of changes Republicans, or indeed most Americans, would want.
“No regulatory actions would accomplish what the bipartisan national security agreement would have done for border security and the immigration system at large,” a statement from the White House reads.
NBC News also quoted a Biden official who referred to an executive order as “plan b.”
Although typically opposed to Biden’s executive orders, Republicans have argued consistently that he already holds the power to make meaningful changes at the border and should do so without waiting for Congress to grant him new authority.