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House Republicans kick off second session at the southern border

Senators continue immigration talks as Mayorkas impeachment looms in House

A US National Guard soldier guards the border with Mexico at Eagle Pass, Texas, on Dec. 23.
A US National Guard soldier guards the border with Mexico at Eagle Pass, Texas, on Dec. 23. (Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images)

As the second session of the 118th Congress officially got underway Wednesday, more House Republicans were at the nation’s southern border than on Capitol Hill.

Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana, along with more than 60 members of the GOP conference, spent the day in Eagle Pass, Texas, as Senate negotiators and the Biden administration continued to try to get to an agreement on border security funding and policy changes. Bipartisan support for those changes is likely needed if Congress is to pass extra funding for Israel, Ukraine and other global hot spots.

“If President Biden wants a supplemental spending bill focused on national security, it better begin by defending America’s national security,” Johnson said during a press conference in Texas. 

Johnson said that as Senate negotiators are working toward a border deal, House Republicans are still supporting their proposed immigration measure, known as HR 2, which passed the House last year. 

Johnson predicted that immigration and border security would help propel a Republican into the White House next year. But before then, Johnson said Republicans’ top priorities for negotiating spending bills are to close and secure the border and to reduce nondefense discretionary spending. 

One of the key participants in those discussions, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, is facing an impeachment inquiry in the House. House Homeland Security Chairman Mark E. Green announced the first Mayorkas impeachment hearing ahead of the border visit Wednesday morning.

“For almost three years, the American people have demanded an end to the unprecedented crisis at the Southwest border, and they have also rightly called for Congress to hold accountable those responsible,” Green, R-Tenn., said in a statement. “That’s why the House Committee on Homeland Security led a comprehensive investigation into the causes, costs, and consequences of this crisis. Our investigation made clear that this crisis finds its foundation in Secretary Mayorkas’ decision-making and refusal to enforce the laws passed by Congress, and that his failure to fulfill his oath of office demands accountability.”

Speaking alongside Johnson on Wednesday, Green called Mayorkas “the greatest domestic threat to the national security and the safety of the American people,” and said there would be “a lot more coming here very soon.”

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer told reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday that he continued to believe it would be best for the Senate to reach an agreement first.

“I think if the Senate gets something done in a bipartisan way, it will put enormous pressure on the House to get something done as well and not just to let these hard-right people get up and say, the 30 of them, to dictate how the whole country should work,” the New York Democrat said. “Because what they believe is clearly in the minority of the Republican Party and our country.”

Schumer also disparaged the House-passed measure Johnson insisted be the basis for talks, saying there was little or no bipartisan support for the bill, which would restart border wall construction, restrict asylum, permit migrant children to be detained for months with their parents and crack down on the employment of undocumented immigrants.

Andrew Bates, a White House spokesperson, said that the speaker should be supporting the administration’s existing supplemental funding request.

“In fact, right now, instead of joining the Biden Administration and members of both parties in the Senate to find common ground, Speaker Johnson is continuing to block President Biden’s proposed funding to hire thousands of new Border Patrol agents, hire more asylum officers and immigration judges, provide local communities hosting migrants additional grant funding, and invest in cutting edge technology that is critical to stopping deadly fentanyl from entering our country,” Bates said in a statement.

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