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Lankford

GOP is showing us why Congress can’t pass a border bill

House Republicans are on track to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and maybe President Joe Biden. Former President Donald Trump is on the path to the GOP presidential nomination. Speaker Mike Johnson is in an increasingly perilous position with his right flank.

Does it sound like Congress is going to approve a border security and immigration deal?

The Senate’s bipartisan talks are hitting new snags over a key element to any border agreement — parole authority. The lead GOP negotiator, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), is walking back his optimistic predictions for a possible deal this week. And he’s balking at House Republicans’ effort to impeach Mayorkas, the man who’s been in the room with Lankford and White House officials negotiating a border deal over the last few weeks.

The strategic differences between Senate and House Republicans right now cannot be overstated. You could even make the argument that they’re irreconcilable.

While House Republicans are looking to boot the DHS secretary from office, Lankford says the only way to address the crisis at the border is to pass legislation forcing Mayorkas to change the policies at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Mayorkas is carrying out President Biden’s policies. That’s what a secretary is going to do. So you can swap secretaries — the policies are going to be exactly the same,” Lankford told us Monday night. “I understand their frustration. But President Biden’s going to have the exact same policies. Until we change the law, until we change the execution of it, we’re going to have the same results.”

To illustrate the seemingly impossible position Lankford finds himself in, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) invoked an old John McCain saying.

“Your reward will be in heaven, not on earth,” Cornyn said. Cornyn later likened Lankford to “a goalie on a dart team.”

Lankford didn’t dispute this analogy, but he leaned harder into his view that a compromise is necessary when Democrats control the White House and Senate while the House is “almost-exactly divided.”

“For those of us that have been engaged on the field, we’re going to take lots of hits, and lots of people are going to cheer and boo in the stands,” Lankford said. “I understand that. But the task has still got to be done… I can’t just ignore the reality of the border and what’s happening.”

Let’s be clear: Lankford is no RINO. He’s as hawkish on border policy as they come. Yet the Oklahoma Republican is taking a proverbial beating with full knowledge that this may very well collapse around him.

Even some of Lankford’s fellow GOP senators are looking to bolster the House Republican strategy. We’re told that later today, Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) will head to the floor to try to pass a “No confidence” resolution targeting Mayorkas.

And tomorrow, Senate Republicans will hash this all out at a special conference meeting called by conservatives who’ve been skeptical of the border negotiations since Day One.

The House Homeland Security Committee begins its first impeachment hearing for Mayorkas on Wednesday. One of the GOP witnesses is Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond. Drummond — long believed to have Senate aspirations — signed onto an amicus brief last year accusing the Biden administration of failing to follow the law by not detaining migrants at the border.

— Andrew Desiderio

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