By Lawrence Wilson and Charlotte Cuthbertsen
EAGLE PASS, Texas–Some House Republicans have leveled the threat of holding up domestic legislation unless President Joe Biden takes strong executive action to secure the southern border, potentially forcing a government shutdown until illegal immigration is halted.
The comments came before and during a press event held in conjunction with a Jan. 3 border visit by Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and some 60 GOP colleagues.
“The solution is [H.R. 2], or the solution is simply one sentence: No money can be used to process or release into the country any new migrants,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told reporters, saying that if President Biden won’t adopt that policy, “we should put that one sentence in must-pass legislation.”
That could include any of the 12 appropriations bills that Congress is required by law to pass annually. None have so far cleared both chambers. Four will expire for the third time this fiscal year on Jan. 19 and the rest on Feb. 2, the deadlines set by the second continuing spending resolution passed last fall.
Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R-Texas) made the threat more explicit.
“None of us want to shut down the government,“ she said. ”But we all recognize the fact that every single penny that we are giving to Homeland Security at this point is not being used to secure our border, is not being used to increase our national security, but it’s doing the exact opposite.”
Earlier in the day, Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Eli Crane (R-Ariz.), Bob Good (R-Va.), and Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) told a reporter that they would shut down the government if the border isn’t closed.
Mr. Johnson stuck with his previous statement that the House won’t approve additional military aid for Ukraine until the Senate adopts H.R. 2.
“If President Biden wants a supplemental spending bill focused on national security, it better begin by defending America’s national security,” he said.
House Republicans have been in negotiations with the Senate over approval of a $106 billion supplemental request from President Biden, which includes $45 billion for Ukraine. Negotiations in the Senate appeared to stall last month as Senate Democrats declared the provisions of H.R. 2 unacceptable.
H.R. 2 would limit the ability of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to allow immigrants to temporarily enter the United States and change the process for seeking asylum in the country, along with the rules for treating unaccompanied children who cross the border.
The bill would also require the State Department to negotiate with countries in the Western Hemisphere, including El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, on the handling of asylum claims by citizens of those countries.
Also, employers would be required to use E-Verify, a web-based system that allows employers to confirm an employee’s eligibility to work in the United States. Those requirements would be phased in over a period of years, based on the size of the employer’s workforce. The legislation would also stiffen civil and criminal penalties for hiring people with no legal right to work in the United States.
The bill would require the DHS to resume construction of the border wall, which was suspended by President Biden on Jan. 20, 2021, the day he took office.
Mr. Johnson urged the president to accomplish a number of these objective actions in a Dec. 21, 2023, letter and again on Jan. 3.
While many House Republicans consider border security the nation’s first priority, it’s unclear that they have the political clout to enforce their demands in the narrowly divided chamber.
Recent changes, including the resignations of ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), as well as the expulsion of New York Republican George Santos, have left the GOP with a 219–213 seat majority and three vacancies. With 217 needed for a majority, Republicans must have the agreement of all but two of their members to pass legislation.
“The federal government has abandoned their duties,” Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) told The Epoch Times. “It’s a dereliction of duty by the administration not to secure the border.”
Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Utah) says he’s willing to negotiate on some provisions of H.R. 2 but not over the end result of closing the border to illegal traffic.
“A non-negotiable is our border,” he told The Epoch Times.
The second-term congressman and former professional football player acknowledged that Americans are generous toward people in need but that there’s a larger issue at stake.
“Until we’re safe at home, until we can make sure that we’re a country where people will assimilate, our culture is really at risk,” Mr. Owens said.
Reinstatement of the Remain in Mexico policy is a must for Rep. Dan Meuser (R-Pa.), along with changes to the process for seeking asylum.
Other provisions are “negotiable,” but simply handing more money to the Biden administration isn’t, he told The Epoch Times.
“We are not going to … deal with any supplemental spending, and I don’t even want to deal with any continuing resolution, unless we close the border first.”