Republicans can’t take ‘yes’ for an answer when Trump says ‘no’

February 7, 2024 3:01 am

Migrants wait throughout the night Wednesday in a dust storm at Gate 42, on land between the Rio Grande and the border wall, hoping they will be processed by immigration authorities before the expiration of Title 42. (Photo by Corrie Boudreaux for Source NM)

If you want to see what happens when a dog catches a car, look at Republicans in Congress.

For decades, the GOP has increasingly been focused on immigration, spurred by a xenophobia intent on stemming the flow of immigrants from Latin America that was, 20 or so years ago, confined to a small but vocal wing of the party but now makes up the bulk of Republicans.

Strict enforcement, overhauling the asylum system and rapid deportations have topped the wish list for Republicans for years. So has a zeal to ensure no reform measures offer any new protections for undocumented immigrants already in the U.S., a hardline stance that has scuttled all attempts at comprehensive immigration reform this century.

So committed are they to border security and tightening immigration laws that they said for months the GOP wouldn’t support for foreign aid for Ukraine and Israel unless these unrelated immigration measures were addressed.

Amazingly, that’s exactly what happened: A bipartisan team of senators spent weeks hashing out a deal for the foreign aid that includes pretty much everything GOP lawmakers have been asking for.

Democrats conceded on virtually every issue:

  • an asylum-processing system that is faster and tougher that would prevent those who don’t meet asylum criteria from staying and working for years until backlogged courts hear their cases;
  • bolstering border security, including a mechanism to shut down the border during surges of migrants;
  • a ton more Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents;
  • spending large sums on technology to detect fentanyl and other systems to stop trafficking;
  • no protections for existing undocumented immigrants or ways for them to attain legal status, much less citizenship.

So, the Republican reaction was to take a victory lap and race to approve it, right?


Of course it wasn’t, because the purpose of Republicans winning a majority has nothing to do with actually achieving policy victories or even governing.

The dog caught the car and found itself paralyzed at its incredible luck in doing so, and thus declared the car wasn’t really a car at all. The proposal to dramatically reform asylum, increase border enforcement and shut down the border entirely was really just an amnesty program!

So say the luminaries of today’s Republican Party, none of whom can take “yes” for an answer. Everyone from rapist and accused criminal Donald Trump to Christian-dominionist-inspired House Speaker Mike Johnson to QAnon fan Marjorie Taylor Greene has declared that the Democratic kowtowing the GOP demands is really just throwing open the borders and granting amnesty to drug smugglers, human traffickers and terrorists.

It’s all nonsense. And it demonstrates that Republicans have buyer’s remorse for demanding that aid for Ukraine and Israel be tied to border security — an ultimatum they clearly didn’t think Democrats would ever engage with.

The reality is that their opposition is a craven political move driven solely by a naked pursuit of power for power’s sake.

That’s why Trump, knowing that his base is fueled by xenophobia and animated by their furor about GOP fear-mongering about the border, denounced the deal even before it was finalized. He and his congressional enablers fear that taking any action now will mean they can’t effectively attack Joe Biden over the border during this year’s election.

The hypocrisy is stunning, even if it’s not surprising. And it was predicted in full by U.S. Sen. James Lankford, the Oklahoma Republican who brokered the deal (along with Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy and Arizona Independent Kyrsten Sinema) and finds himself both exasperated at his fellow Republicans and now in their crosshairs.

As he said Monday, the whole thing only highlights just how uninterested in governing many of his colleagues actually are: “The key aspect of this, again, is: Are we as Republicans going to have press conferences and complain the border is bad and then intentionally leave it open?”

If it helps Donald Trump win in November, you bet your ass they will.

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Jim Small, AZ Mirror
Jim Small, AZ Mirror

Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications, the Yellow Sheet Report and Arizona Legislative Report. Under his guidance, the Capitol Times won numerous state, regional and national awards for its accountability journalism and probing investigations into state government operations.