Mike Johnson betrays border security for more foreign aid

APRIL 18, 2024

Funny how the pressure works up so often for wars abroad and so rarely for deaths at home. But in Washington that pressure is relentless — and one-sided.

The border won’t be secured this year, after House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) proposed a deal that breaks border security off from the little leverage Republicans had, leaving it to drift into the void.

Republican leadership’s plan is to pass funding for Ukraine's and Israel’s wars, as well as a bill forcing TikTok to divest from its Chinese owner, a bill to seize Russian bank assets, and other foreign aid and sanctions, bundling them all together to send to the Democrat-controlled Senate.

The War Party gets what it wants, the appropriators spend what they want, the latest tax bill always passes.

Oh, and the Rules Committee,
Johnson said in his Wednesday statement, will “also be posting text on a border security bill that includes the core components of HR 2, under a separate rule that will allow for amendments.”

The process for the first vote maneuver, nicknamed “MIRV,” is complex. But it comes down to combining Washington hawks’ and the administration’s national security wish list before sending it to the upper chamber as one package.

The process for the second maneuver is less complex: It’s a simple betrayal of popular demands for a secure border, combined with what one senior GOP aide called “a pat on the head.”

The problem is that Democrats don’t want to pass border security. While the White House knows the southern invasion is a serious political liability, the administration is more afraid of the left-wing activists in the party than of the regular voters. That means the only way for Republicans to protect the border was to attach it to other top concerns — a strategy that is dead, thanks to Johnson’s deal.

Why Johnson ditched his promises

This is not the way it was supposed to play out. We were told border security was the number-one priority for the new speaker. In a White House Situation Room meeting with administration officials, for example, Johnson presented “two essential prerequisites: security at our border, and critical answers regarding the funds requested.”

We know this because he wrote it down in
a December 5 letter reiterating Republicans’ position to one of the October meeting participants.

Border security as a prerequisite for aid to foreign countries was among the speaker’s first promises and was repeated throughout his first few months in office. Border security is also among the Republican Party’s top pledges, repeated by candidates and politicians from the Rio Grande to Montana.

More than that, in
pollafterpoll, from New Mexico to Massachusetts, illegal immigration is voters’ top concern. In Washington, D.C., however, it can get in the back of the line, behind Ukraine, Israel, Gaza, Sudan, and all the other places scheduled for the $95 billion in taxpayer funds Johnson is proposing to send abroad.

So what changed?

For one thing, Iran’s attack on Israel. Though part of a broader back-and-forth, and resulting in no deaths, the boldness of Iran itself responding (instead of using its many proxies) gave ammunition to Republican hawks eager to untie their war funds from U.S. security, while also giving cover to Democrat politicians targeted by anti-Israel and pro-Hamas activists.

For another, continued Russian pressure on Ukraine frightened nervous members of both parties. “I think we’re already seeing things on the battlefield begin to shift a bit in terms of in Russia’s favor,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told the defense appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday.

The Russians are beating the Ukrainians in terms of “munitions ... vehicles [and] ... platforms," Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Charles Q. Brown agreed.

Panic in the SCIF

And finally, there’s the SCIF, or “Sensitive Compartmentalized Intelligence Facility,” where the American intel community shares secret information with lawmakers, who can neither confirm it nor repeat it outside the SCIF.

On Tuesday, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and his Democrat colleague issued a joint statement citing secret briefings that convinced them of the imminent need to send money to Ukraine, even at the cost of losing all leverage over the administration to secure the border.

“Today, in a classified briefing,” [/COLOR]they wrote, “our committee was informed of the critical need to provide Ukraine military aid this week."

It wasn’t the first time a secret briefing had sent Intel Committee Chairman Mike Turner (R-Ohio) spinning. In February, he caused a brief panic about a new Russian secret weapon after leaving the SCIF in such a tizzy that it took
statements from the White House and his Senate counterparts to calm everyone down.

Johnson has been known to dabble in the SCIF as well. “When I became speaker,” he
told reporters April 10, “I went to the SCIF and got the confidential briefing from sort of the other perspective on that, to understand the necessity of Section 702 of FISA and how important it is for national security. And it gave me a different perspective.”

Those sorts of meetings are almost certainly responsible for the speaker’s flip-flop on more taxpayer aid to Ukraine’s war.

“Every person who's spent any time in D.C. knows the ... classified intel briefing in the SCIF is merely a leash,” Tucker Carlson
said in a post last week. “It’s a collar around your neck attached to a chain, and at the other hand is your handler ... telling you that if you don’t go along with the program, Americans will die.”

Funny how the pressure works up so often for wars abroad and so rarely for deaths at home. But in Washington that pressure is relentless — and one-sided.

And we see the results play out the same way, time and time again: The War Party gets what it wants, the appropriators spend what they want, the latest tax bill always passes. But the concerns of the American people? The invasion of our southern border? Take a number and get in line. Maybe next year. (But probably not.)