BY FROMA HARROP
If House Republicans succeed in sinking the strongest border enforcement bill in a generation, they can go back to playtime, impeaching Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and spreading weird stuff about Taylor Swift being deployed for "psy ops."
Come November, though, the voting public will remember the sinking, not the show. Americans are paying attention to the chaos at the border. This is an issue that inflames them and that they understand.
The bipartisan deal answers the wish list for restoring order at the Southern border. The bill would provide $20 billion to tighten border security: It would end the practice of "catch and release," whereby migrants would cross illegally, apply for asylum and then be given hearing dates for their claims years in the future.
It expands the numbers of asylum officers, border security agents, detention beds and deportation flights. Most importantly, it gives the president emergency powers to close the border once a threshold of illegal crossings is passed.
Given recent history, that threshold is quite low. And President Joe Biden has said, yes, he will close the border when it's met.
The bill doesn't even mention normalizing the status of Dreamers, people who were brought to this country illegally as young children. That has been a Democratic priority, though polls suggest that most Republicans favor easing the lives of those who have basically grown up as Americans in America.
Donald Trump has ordered Republicans to reject the legislation for the perverse reason that it would go far in actually restoring order, thus depriving him of a potent campaign issue. House Speaker Mike Johnson hopped to and announced that the bill was worse than he thought it would be.
Johnson is a self-proclaimed religious conservative, but one who blanks out parts of the Bible found not to be politically convenient. And he can add new things. Thus, he's come up with an 11th Commandment that goes, "Thou shalt lie in service to Donald Trump."
As for the political stakes, no one said this better than a Wall Street Journal columnist with whom I disagree on nearly everything. Daniel Henninger wrote: "A Republican do-nothing decision to let the border bleed across the next 10 months" lets Democrats portray the entire party as "a reject-everything Trump-MAGA caricature, rather than a GOP capable of governing."
Henninger does err in underestimating the hemorrhage. It would go on for more than 10 months. Even if Trump wins, he wouldn't take over until next January, which is almost a year from now. And as things now look, he's probably not going to win.
If Republicans could put through tougher immigration measures, as they claim, why not let this deal get the ball rolling? Then they can try to improve on it. That would assume, however, that they have any serious interest other that not making Trump mad at them.
Speaking of political survival, Democrats seem to understand the importance of this issue to independents and most of their own voters. They've already taken over as the party of national security, supporting desperately needed aid for Ukraine and the imperative of hemming in Vladimir Putin.
There remain Republicans on the good side of these issues, but they're no longer in charge of their party. If Democrats become the only reliable supporters of national and now border security, many voters might well give them a House majority, maintain their Senate majority and keep President Biden.
Sometimes you wonder whether Biden's secret psy ops agent isn't Taylor Swift but Donald Trump. He's done such a good job of shaping public opinion against Republicans, not to mention helping them lose elections. What better move than trying to kill border security measures that the great American majority has been demanding?
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at [email protected].