COMPASS: Border Wars And Woes

February 20th, 2024

Good afternoon from Capitol Hill. 

The House and Senate are still out of session; both chambers return next week to deal with the first of two government funding deadlines on March 1 and March 8. 

In the meantime, both chambers continue to wrestle with the wide-open southern border. In the House, a group of moderate Republicans have joined with Democrats to produce their own version of a Ukraine war supplemental and border package. The bill includes roughly $10 billion less for Ukraine than the Senate package, and would reinstate the Trump-era Remain in Mexico policy that requires migrants and asylum seekers to be turned back to Mexico to await their court hearings. The policy requires the cooperation of the Mexican government to be enforced.

This compromise agreement is being led by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a moderate Republican. While the bill’s future is uncertain, the border policies he proposes are more liberal than those in  H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act, which the full House passed last year. The bill also undermines House Speaker Mike Johnson’s statements committing House Republicans to the border policies outlined in H.R. 2, and only H.R. 2. It is, however, notable that Fitzpatrick was able to get House Democrats to agree to far more border concessions than Senate Republicans were able to extract in four months of negotiation. 

In addition to the Fitzpatrick bill, there is also discussion of using a discharge petition to force the Senate’s Ukraine bill (which contains no provisions for the southern border) to the House floor. A discharge petition requires the signatures of at least 218 House members to “discharge” a rule from the House Rules Committee, thereby setting up consideration of the Senate’s bill. The process would require the participation of a handful of House Republicans cooperating with Democrats, which would be viewed as an overt slap in the face to Speaker Mike Johnson who has labeled the Senate’s bill dead-on-arrival.

In the Senate, meanwhile, the southern border remains front and center despite the efforts of both Republicans and Democrats to ignore it. The House has impeached Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, which requires the Senate to respond. Senate Democrats are rumored to be planning to “table” the articles of impeachment when they arrive – a move that requires a simple majority to kill the impeachment without ever having a trial, which is unprecedented in congressional history.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has been silent on the effort, but Sens Mike Lee and Ted Cruz have been engaging the Senate’s parliamentarian to rule against the effort citing its constitutional irregularity. 

More from Axios: “13 Republicans, led by Sens. Mike Lee (Utah) and Ted Cruz (Texas), plan to send a letter to McConnell on Tuesday morning, demanding they “fully engage our Constitutional duty and hold a trial.” McConnell, for his part, said he hasn’t “really thought about it” when asked about a vote to dismiss the charges. And as Axios notes, other Senate Republicans find no merit to holding Mayorkas accountable: “Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) recently called the articles “dead on arrival” and the “dumbest exercise and use of time.”

The Latest From Around The Conservative Movement

One More Thing…

The American Conservative Magazine’s Helen Andrews takes a hard look at NAFTA, 30 years on.