Johnson fires warning shot at Senate border talks

Speaker Mike Johnson is delivering his most clear warning yet to senators negotiating a border deal, saying in a letter Friday that it could be “dead on arrival” in the House.

“I wanted to provide a brief update regarding the supplemental and the border, since the Senate appears unable to reach any agreement. If the rumors about the contents of the draft proposal are true, it would have been dead on arrival in the House anyway,” Johnson wrote in the letter to his colleagues, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO.

Johnson didn’t explicitly rule out taking up a Senate bill, as the bipartisan group of negotiators hope to unveil text next week. But following Senate drama this week that shook confidence in negotiations, he repeated a point he’s made frequently in recent weeks: if House Republicans don’t feel like it goes far enough to crack down on the border, it won’t go anywhere in the chamber.

“I am emphasizing again today that House Republicans will vigorously oppose any new policy proposal from the White House or Senate that would further incentivize illegal aliens to break our laws,” Johnson wrote.

Senators left town this week without a long-awaited agreement, which is expected to link new border funding to aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. But Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.), who are negotiating the deal along with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), said they expect to release the text of the bill early next week.

Johnson and other conservative Republicans have frequently warned that they don’t like the rumors they’re hearing about what’s included in the deal, the details of which have been kept secret. Lankford has said that certain points are being misrepresented.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spent the week combatting skepticism within his own ranks over the deal, with former President Donald Trump and some of his allies on Capitol Hill working to scuttle an agreement. Some Republicans have privately theorized it’s better to wait, so they can use the border as a cudgel against President Joe Biden heading into November.

The dynamics of passing a border-foreign aid deal are guaranteed to get tricky in the House, regardless of what the deal includes. A growing number of House Republicans are skeptical of new Ukraine cash, even if it comes with increased border security, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has threatened to try to oust Johnson if he brings it to the floor.

House Republicans have long demanded that if they are going to pass any Ukraine funding it has to be paired with stricter border measures. They passed a sweeping border bill last year that would, among other changes, overhaul the asylum system and restart the construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall. They’ve insisted that any new border deal needs to closely resemble that bill, a nonstarter for Senate Democrats.