Bewildering Border Blunder

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It is often difficult to follow the logic of a political decision unless you understand the political goal that drives it. It’s even more difficult to follow that “logic” when the political goal changes.

That’s why so many people are scratching their heads as they try to understand what happened last week to what appeared to be a comprehensive bipartisan border security agreement that collapsed.

It began several months ago when President Joe Biden asked Congress to approve supplemental military aid support for Ukraine. Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and House Republicans said they would only consider increased aid for Ukraine if it was coupled with a border security bill to curtail illegal immigration and address the overwhelming enforcement and administrative problems faced by authorities at the southern border.

Then came Oct. 7 and the war in Gaza and the addition of security assistance for Israel to the emergency funding request. Johnson and friends stuck to their demand for the inclusion of a border security fix as part of any emergency funding package.

And so, with the blessing of Republican and Democratic party leaders, a bipartisan group of senators worked with the White House over four months to craft a comprehensive package to include $20 billion in emergency funding to hire more border and asylum officials and expand border detention facilities, $14 billion and $10 billion for security and humanitarian aid to Israel and Gaza and $60 billion to support Ukraine’s war against Russian aggression.

The border security portion of the bill also imposed restrictions on asylum and parole claims by migrants, the automatic closure of the border if daily crossing reached unmanageable levels and expedited hearings for immigrants seeking admittance to the United States as refugees.

Each of these items was demanded by Republicans and was included in the compromise bill following extensive negotiations with the White House and other political leaders — just the way bipartisan, goal-oriented legislation is supposed to be developed.

But Republicans couldn’t take “yes” for an answer. They got virtually everything they were asking for — and, in some cases, more than they dreamed possible — but it still wasn’t enough.

And that’s because former President Donald Trump – who holds an iron grip on the Republican party’s nomination for president in the November election — wants to keep the current mess at the southern border as a principal talking point in his election campaign and doesn’t want to give Biden and Democrats any border success bragging points in their campaign efforts.

So, Republicans killed the bill. And with it, they removed any hope for meaningful improvement at the border before the election and dashed the hopes of Ukrainians, Israelis and Palestinians who need emergency support.

We won’t attempt to explore the narcissistic thinking of Trump, who is more focused on himself than the people he claims to want to protect. But what about the spineless members of Congress who follow Trump’s every charge and whim with blind devotion and no moral compass?

We can’t escape the sense that we are seeing the roll-out of the mythical Faustian bargain on the national stage. No good can come of that.

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