WASHINGTON (CN) — Congressional Republicans took a victory lap Thursday after the House narrowly passed a sweeping bill aimed at clamping down on immigration levels at the southern border, a move that came just hours before the expiration of restrictions set during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Once again, House Republicans came together to solve a major crisis facing our nation,” said House Majority Leader Steve Scalise during an afternoon press conference, “a crisis that was created by President Biden’s failures.”
The Louisiana congressman spoke mere minutes after the lower chamber approved the GOP-backed Secure the Border Act on a 219-213 vote, using up every last inch of Republicans’ narrow House majority. Lawmakers have positioned the measure, which would among other things severely restrict eligibility requirements for migrants seeking asylum protections, as a response to the impending rollback of Title 42 immigration restrictions.
The White House is expected to lift Title 42, a public health measure implemented in 2020 that bottlenecked immigration during the Covid-19 pandemic, at midnight Friday morning. Republicans have long criticized the Biden administration for not making adequate preparations for the end of Title 42 and have said that lifting the provision will lead to a migration crisis.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy again lambasted President Joe Biden on Thursday and gave Republicans a pat on the back for their legislative response.
“We all knew the deadline [for Title 42],” McCarthy said, “but the White House produced no plan, missed the deadline, and bumbled into another crisis”
The House speaker also needled his Democratic colleagues for what he framed as a policy of avoiding immigration issues, contrasting that perception with Republicans’ frequent trips to the border. “We identified the problem rather than ignoring it,” the speaker said. “We listened to the American people, and then we took action.”
In a joint statement Thursday, Republican lawmakers Jim Jordan, Michael McCaul and Mark Green said the GOP legislation would take steps to secure the U.S.’s sovereign borders.
“Today, we delivered real, actionable solutions to restore law and order at our border,” the congressmen said. “As Title 42 ends today, there is no more time to waste.”
In addition to tightening asylum rules, the Republican legislation would also hike hiring rates for Border Patrol agents and give the Department of Homeland Security the power to shut down legal ports of entry to migrants if the agency determines those facilities are overwhelmed. The measure would also restart work on a wall along the southern border — taking a page directly out of former President Donald Trump’s playbook.
Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, lambasted the passage of the GOP border bill.
Congressman Bennie Thompson, ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, blasted the measure as purely messaging from Republicans keen on exploiting the plight of immigrants stuck at the southern border.
“[The bill] seems designed to create more chaos at our borders, overload our already busy ports of entry, and deliver on the failed and un-American immigration policies of the Trump administration,” the Mississippi Democrat said. “If this was a legitimate effort, they would work with Democrats to expand legal pathways for migrants and address the root causes of migration. But they refuse to do so.”
New York Congressman Jerry Nadler called the legislation “cruel, extreme and unworkable,” arguing on the House floor that Republicans’ policy was inflicting hardship on migrants while not solving the root problems of immigration.
The GOP border bill is likely to fail in the Senate, where Democrats hold a one-seat majority. President Biden has also blasted the measure and said he would veto it if it somehow made its way to his desk.
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