Republican senators railed against Democrats and the Biden administration’s handling of the migrant crisis during an impassioned press conference Wednesday afternoon.
Amid Congress’ funding negotiations to keep the government open past the September 30 deadline, Senators Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., John Kennedy, R-La., Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Katie Britt, R-Ala., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, shifted their focus to illegal immigration, indicating that they would introduce supplementals to the funding package come November with extra border security provisions.
“We’re facing an unmitigated disaster at our southern border. Illegal Immigration is the worst in our nation’s history and it’s indefensible. Their only defense is to cover it up,” Cruz said of Democrats. “Karine Jean-Pierre stands at the White House podium and says, ‘People are not just walking across the border, it’s not happening.'”
He added: “There’s a technical legal term for what that is — that’s called ‘bulls—.’ It is an utter and complete lie.”
MIGRANT NUMBERS SURGED IN AUGUST AS SOUTHERN BORDER CRISIS RAGES
Other GOP leaders highlighted the need to address stranded migrant children lost after crossing the border, as well as the rise in drug smuggling and human trafficking, and help needed for cities like New York that have been overrun by illegal immigrants.
While the Senate’s Continuing Resolution (CR) proposed deal does not include additional funding for securing the border in its current form, the House is attempting to include the “Secure the Border Act” — H.R. 2 — in different versions of continuing resolutions to keep the government open past September 30.
The bill was passed by the House in May but has so far received little interest from Democrats. A Senate version was introduced this month by Cruz. In addition to strengthening border security measures, it would authorize an additional $110 million in grants to law enforcement agencies in border states to increase border security and increase drone flights at the border.
However, the White House has previously threatened that Biden will veto the legislation if it were to make it to his desk.
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U.S. border patrol officials encountered nearly 233,000 migrants at the border in August, which is the highest number recorded since December 2022.
When GOP senators were asked whether they would be willing to shut down the government over additional border security provisions not being in the upper chamber’s current CR, Graham said, “We’re not going to leave this issue unattended and unaddressed.”
“The House is going to insist that there be border security fixes,” Graham said. “I think we’re all saying we agree with the House, keeping the government open . . . but come November the 17th, whatever date they pick, I expect we’ll have substantial fixes to a broken border.”
Graham added: “To my Democratic colleagues . . . consider this an opportunity. I want to keep the government open. I think we’ll have to do a supplemental in November if we can’t pass the appropriation bills. . . . There will be no legislation without strong border security.”
Meanwhile, Cruz asked, “Chuck Schumer, are you willing to shut the government down in order to stop any effort to secure the border?”
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On Capitol Hill Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said following the GOP Conference’s luncheon that the Senate’s main priority “is to try to keep the government open,” and to continue payroll for “security like air traffic controllers, border patrol, Capitol Police, because the Constitution requires that we continue to be paid during the shutdown.”
“We’re going to concentrate on trying to do our job here in the Senate, which I think is to pass a bill that keeps the government open, and I can’t have an impact on what happens in the House,” he said.
The short-term CR includes only $6.2 billion allocated to Ukraine — an $18 billion decrease from Biden’s August request to Congress. Another $6 billion is allocated to natural disaster funding. The Senate CR does not include any additional funding for border security like the House’s version.
The House and Senate must come to some kind of agreement on how to fund the government by the end of the fiscal year, September 30, or risk a partial government shutdown. House lawmakers voted 216 to 212 late Wednesday to advance four appropriations bills, teeing them up for debate and a final vote sometime this week.
Fox News’ Liz Elkind, Adam Shaw and Griff Jenkins contributed to this report.