Friday, February 23, 2024

Opinion: A Republican senator got the border deal the GOP said it wanted. Watch while his party betrays him

How did we get to this point where so many legislators are not legislating, where legislators are unwilling to legislate? Why come to Washington if not to govern?

I witnessed the obstructionist evolution of Republicans in Congress in the years following Reagan’s arrival. Successful legislating requires compromise, and the more right-wing Republicans – and their voters – have become, the less compromise they make.

Donald Trump has only intensified the dynamic. As president, he talked a big game about bipartisan deals with Congress on gun limits, Infrastructure, health care And immigration, and held none, leaving the White House with enough grist for a new book: “The Art of No Deals.” Like Time magazine reported early in his term, on Trump’s negotiating style: “Time and time again, the president has proven himself to be an unreliable partner. »

Opinion columnist

Jackie Calmes

Jackie Calmes brings a critical perspective to the national political scene. She has decades of experience covering the White House and Congress.

Alas, even out of power, Trump continues to display black magic against negotiation, exploiting the fear of the soulless Republicans towards him and that of his supporters.

Trump’s immediate rejection Monday of a bipartisan Senate compromise on border security (” horrible “ he uttered) was the apparent coup de grace for the first major immigration bill in years. Trump’s toads in the House were declared preemptively The law project DO A. It may not achieve this; sycophantic senators even question the adoption of the project by the Senate.

Forget those Republicans for now though. Let us instead recognize a courageous Republican profile: Senator James Lankford.

The once-obscure Oklahoman braved not-so-friendly fire from the right for months as he negotiated the immigration compromise with Democratic Sen. Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and President Biden’s advisors, who blessed the final product. Today, as Republican attacks redouble, Lankford stands firm – and stands up to Trump. (It is certain that Lankford was elected to a second term in 2022 and will not meet his constituents again until 2028.)

Lankford is a rarity in Congress, a Republican willing to work with Democrats to try to solve the problems Americans want to solve, rather than campaign endlessly about them. The few such Republicans — Sen. Todd Young of Indiana is another — need to get credit where it’s due. They’re certainly not getting it from their party: The Oklahoma party censured Lankford for his efforts last month, before Cancel his action.

Constructive Republicans were the rule in Congress when I started covering the topic, which was mostly before the advent of social media, right-wing cable, and grievance-infused populism. Today, too many members of Congress count cable clicks and clicks, not hard-won legislation, as measures of success.

Senate Republicans “were once divided between conservatives and moderates. Now it’s divided between invertebrates and vertebrates,” said Luke Albee, a longtime Senate aide who worked for two Democratic senators, always looking for principled conservatives willing to make deals. “Senators like Lankford … are in the vertebrate camp, even though they are clearly on the endangered species list.”

Few congressional observers expected Lankford’s leadership, especially on immigration, by far one of the nation’s most controversial issues and one that Republicans hope will be the undoing of Biden and other Democrats. in November.

Lankford, a lanky 55-year-old man whose the drink of choice is iced skim milk, has a bass voice befitting the Southern Baptist preacher he was, but otherwise projects a childish side reminiscent of the red-haired Opie from the first Mayberry TV series. It’s not RINO. Lankford checks all the boxes on the Republican litmus test: pro-gun and fossil fuels, anti-taxes, abortion and gay rights. On January 6, 2021, he was among the opponents of the 2020 elections before the riots, but ultimately voted to certify Biden’s election.

Lately, Lankford has been omnipresent in the media, relentlessly opposing what he calls Republican “lies,” such as the claim that the border compromise would allow 5,000 migrants to enter the country daily. He describes provisions on asylum, detention, deportation, border security funding and presidential power to close borders as a once-unthinkable victory for conservatives. The bill omits, as Republicans prefer, past Democratic priorities: permanent legal status for DACA recipients and a path to citizenship for long-term, law-abiding illegal immigrants.

But Lankford’s Republican colleagues focus on policy, not policy, and he knows it. He characterized the thinking of many of them on CNN: “We’re in a presidential year, so let’s not help Biden in the process.” »

His enemies include the Senate’s usual opponents, including Sen. Mike Lee of Utah. Lee embodies the modern Republican Party’s disdain for bipartisan legislation: He arrived in Congress in 2011 as a Tea Party insurrectionist who had unseated a well-respected Republican. The sin of the outgoing president? Compromise with Democrats on the burning issue of the day, health care.

Lee’s upset victory shook party leaders and presaged the replacement of pragmatic Republicans with hardline Republicans. Like Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and JD Vance of Ohio. Now this ilk defines the party in Congress.

This is why so many Republicans are lying about a border security bill they originally pushed for and why they will likely strip the deal on Wednesday of the 60 Senate votes needed to move forward, taking with it the aid attached to it for Ukraine and Israel.

If this isn’t the death of government, it’s something close to it. If only we could have more Lankfords and fewer Lees.


Note: The content and images used in this article is rewritten and sourced from



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