Speaker Johnson Clashes With Biden White House Over Border Security Authorities
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., leaves a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center after a meeting of the House Republican Conference on Tuesday, January 30, 2024.
(Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) is sparring with the White House over what President Joe Biden can do to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.

The back-and-forth centers on the extent of executive powers at Biden’s disposal after a surge in unlawful border crossings in December and as blue cities around the country get overwhelmed with migrants.

A bipartisan group of senators is working to hash out a deal coupling aid for U.S. allies, such as Ukraine and Israel, with border security reforms, but Johnson has already indicated it would be “dead on arrival” in the GOP-led House.

One purported tenet of the not-yet-released agreement, as reported by Fox News, would establish a threshold of a seven-day rolling average exceeding 5,000 encounters a day to trigger a Title 42-like authority to quickly remove migrants at the border.

“Any border ‘shutdown’ authority that ALLOWS even one illegal crossing is a non-starter. Thousands each day is outrageous. The number must be ZERO,” Johnson said in a post to X on Tuesday.

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), who has been working on the compromise deal with Democrats, insisted over the weekend that the section in question is being misinterpreted.

“Right now, there’s internet rumors. It’s all that people are running. It would be absolutely absurd for me to agree to 5,000 people a day,” he said on “Fox News Sunday,” contending that the provision is designed to shut down the border if there is a “rush of people” approaching.

A spokesperson for Johnson, Raj Shah, offered further details on the speaker’s stance.

“The Speaker said the new legal authority the President is seeking shouldn’t wait for 4,000 to 5,000 daily illegal crossings. It should go into effect at zero crossings,” Shah said on X.

White House spokesperson Andrew Bates responded with a statement conveyed by NBC News.

“Either Speaker Johnson’s interpretation of the law radically changed over the last [four] days, or Speaker Johnson is twisting himself into a pretzel to delay border security – including urgently-needed Border Patrol hiring and investments in cutting-edge fentanyl detection technologies,” Bates said.

Shah fired back with a link to a letter Johnson sent to Biden in December encouraging the president to consider a number of options under existing law in lieu of an immediate legislative solution.

The list included ending catch-and-release, stopping the “exploitation” of parole authority, reviving asylum cooperation agreements with Mexico, ramping up “expedited” removal of migrants who fail to qualify for asylum, and renewing construction of a border wall.

Johnson also pressed Biden to use Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which gives the president the power to block entry to foreigners deemed to be “detrimental” to U.S. interests, to “regain operational control of the border.”

“Speaker Johnson urged Biden to take executive action in a letter and cited Section 212(f) over a month ago, documented 64 actions [Biden] took to undermine border security weeks ago and has made the case for executive action on a near daily basis,” Shah said.

A reporter asked Biden on Tuesday whether he had done everything he could with executive authority.


“I’ve done all I can do,” Biden said. “Just give me the power. I’ve asked from the very day I got into office. Give me the Border Patrol. Give me the people — give me the people, the judges. Give me the people who can stop this and make it work right.”

Johnson retorted with a post to X.

“That is simply untrue. He’s either lying or misinformed,” Johnson said.

He listed “just a few of the authorities at his disposal – if only he would use them”: Presidential Authority to Restrict Entry 212(f), Expedited Removal 235(b)(1), Discretionary Detention Authority 236(a), and Mandatory Detention 236(c).

“No more excuses,” Johnson concluded.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Speaker Johnson Clashes With Biden White House Over Border Security Authorities