Johnson spars with White House over border funding claims: ‘Desperate’

House Speaker Mike Johnson is pushing back against White House claims that Republicans have an “anti-border security record” and have sought to cut Border Patrol agent numbers — with Johnson dismissing the claims as “desperate” as the country deals with a historic migrant crisis at the southern border. “From the start of President Biden’s term, House Republicans have voted for significant year over year funding increases for Border Patrol and ICE beyond what his administration has requested. And from the start of President Biden’s term, his Administration has implemented policies that have undermined security and created a humanitarian crisis at the Southern border,” the memo from Johnson’s office said. “Now, in a desperate attempt to shift blame for a crisis their policies have induced, they have argued it’s a funding problem. Clearly, they have no facts to back up their claim,” it said. EX-DHS OFFICIALS BACK JOHNSON’S AGGRESSIVE BORDER STANCE IN FUNDING FIGHT, SAY GOP MUST HAVE ‘CLEAR RESOLVE’ The White House repeated claims this week that Republicans had voted to eliminate over 2,000 Border Patrol agents and erode the federal government’s capacity to seize fentanyl. “Actions speak louder than words. House Republicans’ anti-border security record is defined by attempting to cut Customs and Border Protection personnel, opposing President Biden’s record-breaking border security funding, and refusing to take up the President’s supplemental funding request,” spokesperson Andrew Bates said. The 2,000 CBP cut is based on an Office of Management and Budget analysis of the Republican budget plan from last year, which found that funding cuts would lead to a staffing cut as it laid out. The White House also accused the House Republicans of failing to work with the Senate and administration to secure agreement on a supplemental funding agreement for Ukraine, Israel and border aid. The White House has requested $14 billion for the border as part of that proposal. SPEAKER JOHNSON FLOATS MEETING WITH BIDEN ON BORDER CRISIS “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. “On Day One, President Biden proposed a comprehensive immigration reform plan and followed up by delivering record border security funding every single year of his term. House Republicans have obstructed his reform proposal and consistently voted against his unprecedented border security funding year after year, hamstringing our border security in the name of extreme, partisan demands,” he said. Those claims were echoed by White House Press Secretary Karine Jean Pierre this week, who accused Republicans of conducting “political stunts.” But Johnson’s office pointed to fact checks that have rated the claim about CBP staffing cuts false or mostly false, including from PolitiFact, which called the claim about staffing cuts “more of a guess” and noted the measures don’t explicitly say they would cut staffing in the way the White House described. Instead, Johnson’s office pointed to appropriations bills that have increased border security funding “including Border Patrol agents at the highest level ever funded, and ICE custody operations at a level more than ever previously appropriated.” “Funding for Border Patrol operations and related Southwest border requirements has increased by over $2.28B, or 47%, since FY21. Similar ICE operations funding has increased by $860M, and in FY23, Congress rejected cuts the President requested to ICE funding that would have significantly cut detention capacity and overall immigration enforcement operations,” the memo says. US-MEXICO MIGRATION TALKS INCLUDED BENEFITS OF ‘REGULARIZING’ ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS LIVING IN US  Meanwhile, it claims that of the $14 billion funding request, most of it falls into management and processing, as well as $3 billion to non-government organizations and cash assistance for migrants, rather than border operations — arguing that just 17% goes to Border Patrol. “The President’s supplemental request is little more than misdirection and false advertising that would do little to secure the border,” the memo says. After Johnson’s memo, Bates responded and doubled down, saying the Johnson memo proves “we struck a nerve by highlighting House Republicans’ actions to eliminate 2,000 Border Patrol agents and weaken our crackdown on fentanyl.” He argued that the Default on America Act would have forced the cuts as he described and pointed to comments from Johnson saying it would “usher in the largest spending cuts in history” and pointed to similar proposals, including those of some Republicans to defund DHS entirely. “Speaker Johnson and House Republicans left Washington for an early vacation in mid-December while President Biden and Senators from both parties continued working to find common ground,” he said. “The President is focused on securing the resources he requested in the National Security supplemental to secure our border, including more Border Patrol agents, asylum officers, immigration judges, and technology to catch fentanyl.” Talks are still ongoing between negotiators and the administration, with Republicans seeking more limits on asylum and the use of parole to allow migrants into the interior. Johnson visited the southern border this week with more than 60 Republican lawmakers, and said that H.R. 2 — the House Republican border security bill passed last year that includes limits on releases, tighten the credible fear standard, re-establish the “Remain in Mexico” policy and restart wall construction among other provisions — is the “necessary ingredient.” “Because it has provisions that fix each of these problems and these things work together,” he said. Democrats in the Senate have ruled out H.R. 2 and similar proposals as a non-starter. Even some reported concessions by the Biden administration, including the establishment of a Title 42-style removal authority, have been met with anger from some liberal Democrats. The administration has also said negotiations are moving forward. “Our negotiations with the Senate continued over the holidays, and we continue to be encouraged by the progress being made. And while we are not there yet, we believe we are moving in the right direction,” a senior administration official told reporters on Tuesday.
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