House conservatives have launched an 11th-hour effort to include tougher border security measures as part of the emerging package to prevent a government default.
In a letter to the bipartisan leaders negotiating a debt limit compromise, the Republican Study Committee (RSC) argued the migrant influx at the Southern border is — like the threat of default — a crisis facing the country. The group is pushing to attach the GOP’s House-passed border bill to any deal that lifts the government’s borrowing cap.
“The security of our border is inextricably linked to the fiscal security of our nation,” the group, led by Reps. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) and Ben Cline (R-Va.), wrote to President Biden, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and the other leaders navigating the talks.
The proposal is dead on arrival with Democrats in the White House and Congress, but by highlighting the border crisis, it calls attention to an issue that resonates with conservative voters and puts Biden on the defensive.
“The present border crisis may go down as the most preventable debacle in our nation’s history,” the RSC letter reads.
The conservative group says H.R. 2, which Republicans passed through the House last week, “should logically serve as the starting point for considering sound border security measures.”
That package would hike funding for border security agents, promote new construction of the border wall, and put new limits on those migrants seeking asylum, including a restoration of the policy requiring applicants to remain in Mexico during processing.
That vote followed closely on the heels of the House passage of the Republicans’ debt limit package, which combined an extension of the government’s borrowing authority with steep spending cuts.
A number of conservatives have warned they won’t accept a debt limit package that waters down the deficit spending cuts, which Biden has rejected. The border security piece is being viewed as a way to win the support of those conservatives, even if the cuts are scaled back, as expected.
“If Biden won’t accept A, then we’ll add the border security bill to it and offer him B,” said Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.). “There’s a lot of folks here that want to do that.”
Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), another Freedom Caucus member, delivered a similar message.
“The only question now, after the House spent 90 days negotiating the [debt limit] increase, is what should be added to it? Which should be the border bill?” he said.
McCarthy this week did not rule out the possibility of pushing for border security as a part of the deal. But he acknowledged the practical limitations of that strategy, which would never get by Democrats.
“The president, I told him early on, if you find some other policies that we can put in to make the countries safer, make it stronger, I’m more than willing to talk about that,” McCarthy told reporters at the Capitol. “I’m just not sure in the Senate, they have the capacity.”
The debt ceiling debate is not the only chance conservatives will have to push for tougher border security. With government funding set to expire Oct. 1, Republicans are already eyeing another shot at attaching the immigration bill to must-pass legislation.
“The price is going up by the day,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), lead sponsor of the GOP’s border bill. “The border’s on fire, so … I certainly can’t imagine getting through Sept. 30 and not getting border security as part of a package.”
Not everyone, however, is on board.
Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), who had voted against the GOP’s initial debt ceiling package, is warning the push to add border security to the mix serves little purpose — and risks alienating voters wary of Congress’s ability to prevent a default.
“We’re in our little bubble up here, and the American public just doesn’t get that. They don’t understand why we just don’t get together and figure something out, and that’s not figuring anything out,” Burchett said.
“It’s just stupid,” he added. “You’ve got two wins, and you’re gonna combine the bills, send them over there and force them to do something? They’re not gonna do anything. Nobody cares, and it’s ridiculous.”