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Democrats push Biden for executive action to secure border

More than a dozen House Democrats are pressing President Biden to tap his executive powers to secure the border, arguing that Congress’s partisan stalemate on the issue leaves him no choice but to act unilaterally. 

In a letter delivered to the president on Tuesday, 15 Democrats — most of them in competitive reelection contests — said the only lasting solution for curbing the migrant tide and the flow of fentanyl is for both parties to join forces and pass legislative fixes. But after Republicans blocked a bipartisan border bill earlier in the year, the issue has little chance of reemerging before November’s elections, creating a void that only the White House can fill.

“It has become clear that the current situation remains untenable, but with Republicans playing politics on border security, it is time for your administration to act,” the lawmakers wrote. “We urge you to use all tools at your disposal, including executive action, to better address security at the Southern border, interdict illicit fentanyl and allow for orderly legal immigration.”

The letter was spearheaded by Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.) and endorsed by 14 other House Democrats, including Reps. Susan Wild (Pa.), Mike Levin (Calif.), Steven Horsford (Nev.) Matt Cartwright (Pa.), Susie Lee (Nev.), Sharice Davids (Kan.), Chris Pappas (N.H.), and Hillary Scholten (Mich.) — all of whom are ranked among the vulnerable lawmakers identified by the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper.

The push for Biden to act on border security highlights the concerns among some Democrats that the hot-button issue is a handicap on their reelection chances in November, as Republicans seek to capitalize on voter anxieties about immigration in general and the border in particular.

In February, after months of hard negotiations, a group of bipartisan senators reached a deal on tougher border security measures to accompany a massive foreign aid package, including fresh military help for Ukraine and Israel. The border provisions were a demand of conservatives in both chambers, including Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who said Congress would be derelict to protect the borders of other countries without also protecting its own.

That package went off the rails, however, after former President Trump advised Republicans not to support any border reforms before the election — an issue he’s hoping to use against Biden on the campaign trail.

Trump’s entreaty altered the debate, as Republicans quickly bashed the bipartisan agreement as being too weak. Johnson declared it “dead on arrival” in the House, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), after championing the deal, voted with most Republicans to sink it in the upper chamber. 

Democrats, including Biden, have hammered Republicans for abandoning the border issue, saying they tanked the opportunity to achieve the bipartisan immigration reforms that have eluded Congress for decades.

But the griping has done nothing to improve conditions at the southern border, where thousands of migrants continue to arrive seeking asylum each day — a dynamic that’s fueled the GOP attacks on Biden’s handling of the crisis.

In their letter, the 15 Democrats accused Republicans of refusing to tackle the problem legislatively for the sole purpose of using the issue as a campaign cudgel against Democrats.

“This Congress had an opportunity to work together on a bipartisan basis to secure the border but House Speaker Mike Johnson has refused to bring that bill to us for debate because our House colleagues would rather see the crisis continue and use it as a campaign ad instead of actually addressing this national security issue,” they wrote. 

But they also want Biden to step in with executive fixes, citing the sheer ubiquity of the fentanyl crisis and the difficulty facing local governments as they struggle to locate housing and other services for asylum seekers.

“All of our constituents, no matter our congressional district, have felt the impacts of the current border situation,” they wrote.

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