The Washington Monthly Newsletter: February 6, 2024

Why would Speaker Johnson throw the Border Patrol under the bus?

Last week I laid out the three things that have to happen for the border security/Ukraine aid package to pass.

Yesterday, a big one of those three—”Senate Republicans have to come through”—decidedly did not happen.

After House Speaker Mike Johnson declared the bill would not get a vote, and 22 of the upper chamber’s 49 Republicans publicly opposed the bill, the previously supportive Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell flinched and signaled to his conference they could filibuster the opening procedural vote slated for this week.

Yet Johnson’s complaints are wholly disingenuous, even from a conservative perspective. He even threw the sainted U.S. Border Patrol under the bus.

There’s plenty more to say about that. But first, here’s what’s leading the Washington Monthly website:

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On Monday afternoon, House Speaker Mike Johnson said the bipartisan border security bill under Senate consideration did not have “the elements necessary to solve the border crisis” based on “what we have been told by the experts on the ground” including “border patrol agents, officers, [and] longtime veterans of the agency.”

Later on Monday, the National Border Patrol Council endorsed the bill. Oops!

So on Monday night, during a Fox News interview, when Johnson was asked about that endorsement from the border patrol union, he backstabbed them: “I think it does have something to do with the pay structure that’s in the bill. I understand that they’re desperate for measures that will assist.”

The National Border Patrol Council leadership is not exactly a bunch of leftist labor organizers. They endorsed Donald Trump twice. They praised Trump’s harsh border crackdowns and accused Joe Biden of supporting “radical immigration policies that are tantamount to open borders” and claimed he “pledged to prioritize illegal aliens over the American people.” Just yesterday the union’s social media feed was mocking Biden.

So when the NBPC endorses a border security bill, you can be pretty confident the decision was about more than just a pay bump, let alone any sort of favor to Democrats. These are people who clearly believe in their work.

The endorsement statement debunks Johnson’s arguments, even though Johnson claimed his arguments are simply what border patrol agents told him.

Johnson said border enforcement officials believe “you have to fix asylum, you have to fix parole, you have to end the catch-and-release [and] you also need elements of the wall being built.”

But the NBPC statement directly addresses Johnson’s supposed concerns about asylum and “catch-and-release” (what immigration opponents call the policy of allowing asylum-seekers to stay in America while they wait, sometimes for years, for their case to be adjudicated), praising provisions that would “allow us to remove single adults expeditiously and without a lengthly judicial review which has historically required the release of these individuals into the interior of the United States.”

Furthermore, the bill would force Biden to spend money on building a border wall, and limit humanitarian parole for border crossers (though not for migrants who arrive at airports).

Of course, these are points that need not be made by me, but by Senate Republicans in conservative media outlets, to help get fellow Republicans on board.

The problem is: that would require courage.

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Best,

Bill

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