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The GOP Fears Working With Biden More Than It Cares About Fixing the Border Crisis

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty

The proposed border deal package looks like an obvious Republican victory to this old-school Reagan conservative. It funds our allies, Israel (against Hamas) and Ukraine (against Russia’s invasion), and it tightens border security.

It’s a win-win. No wonder MAGA Republicans hate it.

A rational conservative party would leap at the chance to pass this bill. Even if you were a right-wing border hawk who won’t rest until we dig an alligator-filled moat along the southern border, this deal still beats the status quo. And as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) put it a couple weeks ago, “To those who think that if President Trump wins, which I hope he does, that we can get a better deal—you won’t.”

Biden and Democrats Are Their Own Worst Enemies on Border Crisis

“[I]f I go back two months ago,” Republican Sen. James Lankford (R-OK)—the lead negotiator on the bipartisan bill—argued on Monday, “and say we had a shot under a Democrat president to dramatically increase detention beds, deportation flights, locked down the border, to be able to change the asylum laws, to be able to accelerate the process. No one would have believed it,” Lankford said. “And now no one actually wants to be able to fix it…”

Among those who do not want to fix it, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson declared the bill “dead on arrival.” The reason? Donald Trump wants to deprive Joe Biden of the chance to help fix the border crisis. “A Border Deal now would be another Gift to the Radical Left Democrats,” Trump said on Truth Social, recently. “They need it politically.”

Trump has a point. Democrats do need this politically. This is how concessions and leverage work. People (in this case, Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats) are forced to give away things they would rather hang on to when they feel enough pressure to do so.

Democrats, many of us would agree, are too soft on the border. And it’s starting to hurt them, politically. This has created a fleeting moment when Democrats are willing to restrict border entry—without negotiating much in return other than a) funding for Ukraine and b) a talking point.

Of course, the $64,000 question is whether Republicans would rather do something to stem illegal immigration (even if it’s not the perfect plan) or help Trump get re-elected in November (even if it means passing no border legislation once he’s in office).

Trump has selfish reasons to reject this opportunity, but there are other reasons why many Republican voters would likely oppose this legislation (even without Trump’s ulterior motives).

Biden Needs to Act Like His House Is on Fire, Because It Is

“What gets people nervous is that we watched this president… do more damage to the border than any president in history,” Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said on Monday. “... The vice president ignores it. And they’re all in support of this bill. Chuck Schumer’s in support of this bill... And a lot of Republicans instinctively said, ‘What am I missing? Why are they in support of this bill?’”

The Catch-22 is obvious: Democratic support for a bill, alone, is evidence it’s a trap. For conspiratorially minded Republican voters, compromise is a dirty word.

It wasn’t always this way. If you want to understand how politics have changed, consider this quote from Ronald Reagan in 1983: “I have always figured that a half a loaf is better than none, and I know that in the democratic process you’re not going to always get everything you want.”

This is a strategic way to operate—if your goal is to use incremental gains to accomplish something significant for the country. But that’s not the goal for most modern GOP politicians.

Having already decided to kill this bill, MAGA Republicans have now turned to other excuses. For example, Speaker Johnson has pointed out that Biden already has authority to simply shut down the border.

In this regard, Johnson is echoing the former president. “If Joe Biden truly wanted to secure the border, he doesn’t really need a bill,” Trump said in a recent Las Vegas speech. “I did it without a bill.”

Putting aside the fact that conservatives used to oppose unilateral power grabs, the fact that Biden was able to easily reverse Trump’s border policies only underscores the need for a legislative solution.

Why the Right Is Wrong to Celebrate the Gutting of Newsrooms

The plain truth is that Republicans are killing this bill because Trump would rather preserve the campaign issue than fix the crisis.

If MAGA Republicans truly believe that the border crisis is an existential threat to our safety—that it will result in increased crime and a proliferation of rapists, fentanyl, and terrorists—then playing this game isn’t merely about choosing to put politics ahead of policy. It’s calculated immorality.

Biden came to the table with a good deal that sane Republicans who still want to do the work of the people were willing to accept. But it’s the other Republicans doing the work for Trump that really run the show these days. This is why we can’t have nice things.

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