Public Media for Central Pennsylvania
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

If the border deal gets through Senate Republicans, it could still fail in the House


A bipartisan Senate group could be on the verge of rolling out a deal to address the crisis at the southwest border. But if an agreement passes in the Senate, it could run into a brick wall in the House. NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh looks at the divide within the Republican ranks and the crucial decision for House speaker Mike Johnson.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: House Republicans aren't part of the monthslong talks about a bill to change the Biden administration's immigration policies. But North Carolina Congressman Patrick McHenry says criticism from Democratic officials dealing with the problem, combined with the urgency from Republicans, creates a rare moment to get something done.


PATRICK MCHENRY: We have bipartisan support. Big-city mayors are talking about the same thing that Texas conservatives are talking about. Take the moment, man. Take the policy win, bank it and go back for more. That is always the goal.

WALSH: After embarrassing internal fights resulting in one speaker ousted and a new one facing daily threats about his political future, McHenry says House Republicans need to get out of their own way or pay the price at the ballot box.


MCHENRY: But at this point, we are just - we are sucking wind because we can't get past the main object in the road.

WALSH: Republicans insisted on linking measures to secure the U.S.-Mexico border to a bill approving more money for Ukraine. But Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene is part of a growing group in the GOP who have a blunt message for the speaker.


MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: Do not fund Ukraine. And that's what that bill does, and so I don't think we'll see that bill as - the entirety as it is in the Senate - we will not see it on the House floor.

WALSH: And Greene has threatened to remove any speaker who allows more money for the war in Ukraine. For his part, speaker Mike Johnson is pushing for the border bill House Republicans passed last May, with zero Democrats backing it. He's consulting with former President Donald Trump, who has criticized the Senate framework, which includes reviving some similar immigration policies to his own. North Dakota GOP Congressman Kelly Armstrong says he's open to a deal if it meets his test.


KELLY ARMSTRONG: I am open to doing anything that gives our Border Patrol and our authorities operational control over the border again.

WALSH: Some members, like Nick LaLota, a New York Republican, say they have specific policies they want to see in a deal, like a requirement that migrants stay in Mexico until a judge decides whether they meet asylum requirements.


NICK LALOTA: Border security has to start with remain in Mexico, a ban on mass parole into the country and a prohibition against redeploying border agents away from the border. If it has those three things, I think everything else can be discussed.

WALSH: One veteran of complicated immigration negotiations, Florida Republican Mario Diaz-Balart, doesn't think President Biden will implement a new law even if it gets passed, but says putting new tools in place could strengthen a new president.


MARIO DIAZ-BALART: Ultimately, I think it's going to require a different president to actually secure the border, regardless of legislation.

WALSH: Bob Good, the head of the House Freedom Caucus, has zero interest in a Senate border bill.


BOB GOOD: It's worse than doing nothing to give political cover for a sham border security bill that does nothing to actually secure the border.

WALSH: If a plan advances, Speaker Johnson will decide its fate. He can move a bill designed to deal with the issue he says is his top priority, or he can listen to the hardline members who would rather wait for a new president in 2024 and preserve the issue for their campaign to keep control of the House.

Deirdre Walsh, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.