Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) used his first floor speech as the top lawmaker in the chamber to hammer President Biden on his management of the U.S.-Mexico border, calling on the White House to act on its own rather than relying on Congress to send him legislation.
In the 30-minute-long remarks, Johnson said Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas — who House Republicans are working to impeach — ”designed this catastrophe” at the southern border.
“He’s inviting chaos and disorder within our land that is tearing at the very fabric of our society. The president can put a stop to this. President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas have designed this catastrophe,” Johnson said. “And now rather than accept any accountability or responsibility for what they have clearly done, President Biden wants to somehow try to shift the blame to Congress for his administration’s catastrophe by design. It’s absolutely laughable. No one’s falling for this.”
“My counter is this: If President Biden wants us to believe he’s serious about protecting our national security, he needs to demonstrate good faith and take immediate action to secure that border. But he won’t do it,” he continued. “He needs to immediately stop the mass release of illegals in our country, but he won’t do it. If he wants our House Republican conference to view him as a good-faith negotiator, he can start with a stroke of a pen. But he’s got to do it quickly.”
The floor speech comes as Senate negotiators are racing to put the finishing touches on a long-awaited border deal that has been the subject of high-level negotiations for months. The negotiators began after Republicans demanded that any aid for Ukraine be paired with border security provisions.
But as senators close in on releasing text of the deal, Johnson and House Republicans have thrown cold water on the effort, instead saying Biden should first use the tools at his disposal to address the situation at the border before passing new legislation.
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In a letter to GOP lawmakers last week, Johnson said that the deal would be “dead on arrival” in the House if reported rumors about its contents are true. On Wednesday, he referred to the impending agreement as the “so-called border security deal.”
One major rumored provision in the deal that is eliciting GOP pushback concerns the executive branch’s power to halt migration if illegal crossings exceed 5,000 per day. Republicans opposed to the deal argue that the threshold should be far lower.
The White House has disputed Republican claims that the president can do more through executive action to stem the flow on the border.
“It is House Republicans who are saying they will block an historic bipartisan border security deal supported by President Biden that will deliver much-needed law enforcement hiring and investments in cutting-edge technology to stop fentanyl trafficking,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement on Tuesday. “President Biden has been fighting to take rapid action to secure our border, even as House Republicans have consistently voted against the record funding this president has delivered year after year for that purpose. “
Johnson, in his floor speech, went on to recount a conversation he had with a border patrol official in January, when the Speaker led more than 60 Republicans on a trip to the border in Eagle Pass, Texas.
“He said what we’re being asked to do right now is administer an open fire hydrant. He said, ‘Please convey to our friends in Washington, we don’t need more buckets, we need to turn off the flow,’” Johnson said. “And his metaphor explains the situation perfectly.”
The floor remarks also come less than one day after the House Homeland Security Committee — after a marathon markup that dragged into the early hours on Wednesday — advanced two articles of impeachment against Mayorkas, teeing up a final vote in the chamber. Republicans are accusing him of “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law” and “breach of trust.”
The Department of Homeland Security in a memo this week said the markup for the articles was “just more of the same political games from House Homeland Security Committee (CHS) Republicans,” adding, “They don’t want to fix the problem; they want to campaign on it.”
Johnson on Wednesday, nonetheless, said the House would be “moving forward swiftly” on the articles.
“It’s long overdue,” he said. “But Secretary Mayorkas is only part of the problem.”
Emily Brooks contributed.