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Mike Johnson and Mitch McConnell

On a border deal, it’s Johnson vs. McConnell

Speaker Mike Johnson and his leadership team gave the clearest signal yet that the emerging Senate deal on border security and immigration is DOA in the House.

On a House GOP conference call Sunday night, Johnson said Congress can’t solve the crisis at the border until Donald Trump or another Republican is in the White House. And Johnson reiterated that his position is that H.R. 2 — the hardline House GOP border-security bill — is the House Republicans’ negotiating position.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise also said the Senate border deal goes in a different direction than H.R. 2 and is a non-starter in the House.

Let’s unpack this. For starters, it puts Johnson and Scalise — the top two House Republicans — on a completely different wavelength than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. As we scooped Thursday, McConnell told GOP senators during a closed-door meeting that they need to “take the deal” that Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) is negotiating with Democrats.

McConnell also explicitly said there’s no way a border deal materializes with Trump in the White House. The time for action is now, with Democrats at the negotiating table and willing to accept serious border restrictions in exchange for foreign aid.

So when it comes to the legislative strategy, Johnson and McConnell are diametrically opposed to one another.

Senate GOP leaders have been operating under the assumption — or the hope — that a big bipartisan vote with significant Republican support would put enough pressure on the House to take up the bill. That’s not going to happen now.

Remember, Johnson was at the U.S.-Mexico border with dozens of House Republicans less than two weeks ago highlighting the urgency of the migrant crisis and arguing it’s an emergency that must be addressed. His position — that the Senate pass H.R. 2, a bill that can’t clear the 60-vote threshold — ensures that nothing will get done. No Democrats voted for that measure in the House, and Senate Democrats and the White House are strongly opposed.

It also allows President Joe Biden to say that Republicans blocked Congress’ best shot in years to address the broader problems with border security and immigration reform. To be sure, the migrant crisis has been a political liability for Biden, but this move could effectively throw him a lifeline.

Here’s what a frustrated Senate GOP aide told us late last night:

The view of McConnell and most of the Senate is that the stakes are too high for Congress to fail to address the border situation. The national security challenges laid out in Biden’s initial funding request — Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan – are vital to U.S. security as well.

Perhaps most significantly, this could signal the end of the road for U.S. aid to Ukraine, a major Biden administration priority that’s shared by McConnell and a majority of lawmakers in both chambers.

And there are now serious doubts about the path for U.S. aid to Israel and Taiwan.

— Andrew Desiderio and Jake Sherman

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