House Republicans Clash Over Immigration

Rep. Tony Gonzales speaks on the steps of the Capitol in 2021. (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

House Republicans knew their thin majority would make it hard to pass their agenda during this session of Congress, and a slate of immigration bills is the latest example.

Members didn’t appear any closer Monday night to reaching consensus on a slate of measures leaders had initially planned to bring to the floor earlier this year. Despite the months-long delay, GOP leaders hope they can forge a path forward in April. Republicans are expected to consider the immigration bills in a committee markup after the chamber returns from a two-week Easter recess, Rep. Chip Roy told The Dispatch Monday night.

Roy’s bill, H.R. 29, is at the center of the controversy. It would grant the homeland security secretary the power to block all undocumented immigrants from coming into the United States through any points of entry if the secretary decides it is necessary to regain “operational control” of the U.S.-Mexico border. Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas’s 23rd District has called it un-Christian and said he won’t support it. 

But on Monday night, Gonzales added that he has “a lot” of other issues with the immigration bills beyond Roy’s measure, declining to elaborate further.

“If they try to jam them through, they’re going to fail on the floor,” Gonzales said. “So probably best to get it fixed out ahead of time than see it go down in burning flames on the House floor.”

He said he wants the bills to not just be messaging measures: “People in my district are dying,” Gonzales said, referencing a fatal car crash involving a human smuggler. “There’s no time for these anti-immigrant, un-Christian bills that aren’t going to go anywhere. We need real, tangible solutions, and I’m going to make sure that happens.”

Gonzales plans to meet with Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green to discuss immigration legislation this week, he said.

“People think I’m going to buckle and I’m going to give in,” Gonzales added. “I’m not going to give in, and you’re never going to out-border me.”

Trump Splits GOP Senators Again

Former President Donald Trump has been urging his supporters to protest if he is indicted by New York prosecutors. Last week, he warned of “potential death and destruction” if he is arrested. And over the weekend, he honored January 6 defendants at a rally in Waco, Texas. 

His rhetoric is eliciting different responses from different GOP senators.

South Dakota Republican Sen. Mike Rounds was “disappointed” Trump used video footage from January 6 at his rally, he said.

“That was a bad day for this country, and what happened on that day, as I’ve said in the past, was as close to an attempted insurrection as we’ve seen in a long time,” Rounds told reporters during Senate votes Monday night. “And I don’t think any of us should be proud of that day.”

Asked if he would support Trump for president if he wins the Republican nomination, Rounds said he is “looking at a number of other individuals who I think are very qualified to be president of the United States.” Pressed again on how he would respond if Trump won the nomination, Rounds repeated his answer nearly word for word.

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, meanwhile, said he doesn’t believe due process rights are being granted to some January 6 defendants. He complained that the Justice Department hasn’t spent more resources on prosecuting individuals implicated in the riots in the summer of 2020.

Does Johnson personally think people should protest if the former president is indicted? Johnson shook his head silently in response to that question. Asked if that should be taken as a “No,” Johnson said, “I don’t think many would” protest. He doesn’t “want to see any violence,” he said. 

But does he think they should protest?

“Listen, it’s just a pointless question,” he told The Dispatch.

Murphy Wants Senators on the Record on Gun Bills

Lawmakers are unlikely to pursue any major gun policy changes after Monday’s horrific school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, that killed three children and three adults.

Still, Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy—who has ardently advocated gun control measures since his home state experienced the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting—wants to bring legislation to the Senate floor this year to put lawmakers on the record.

“I’ll continue to push for legislation, and at some point we should talk about putting votes on the floor,” he told reporters Monday night. “I think America wants to see where people stand on some of these issues, whether it be universal background checks or assault weapons.”

President Joe Biden renewed his call for a ban on assault weapons after the shooting, but some members of his own party quickly rejected the idea.

Last year, senators approved the most significant gun policy bill in nearly three decades. The path for further compromise legislation is narrow, Murphy said, but he will continue to talk with his colleagues about it.

“This, unfortunately, won’t be the last catastrophic mass shooting,” he said.

Blinken Misses McCaul’s Deadline

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul issued his first subpoena Monday night in the committee’s probe of the Biden administration’s 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan.

McCaul had set a Monday evening deadline for Secretary of State Antony Blinken to hand over a July 2021 internal dissent cable from 23 State Department officials warning of the potential collapse of Kabul if the withdrawal proceeded. Blinken didn’t meet that deadline. He told lawmakers last week that he feared sharing the dissent cable with Congress would have a chilling effect on speech and confidentiality within the department.

McCaul disagrees.

“We’re going to battle over this dissent cable,” McCaul told reporters Monday. He added that any of the dissenters who want to speak with the committee about it would be protected by whistleblower laws.

He said he had a “cordial” conversation with Blinken over the phone before he signed the subpoena. Blinken wanted to give lawmakers a summary of the cable rather than making the full messages available.

“That’s not satisfactory because it’s a filtered State Department version of what happened and why they were dissenting rather than the actual dissenting cables themselves,” McCaul said. 

He told Blinken he was willing to view the information at the State Department with names redacted, but he wants to see the original messages.

The committee’s next hearing on the Afghanistan withdrawal isn’t expected until after lawmakers return from a two-week April recess.

On the Floor

Congressional-Executive Commission on China Chairman Rep. Chris Smith told us in December that one of his top priorities for this Congress is to pass his legislation targeting forced organ harvesting abroad. The bill passed the House Monday night with overwhelming support. It would require new reports on forced organ harvesting around the world and mandate sanctions on perpetrators.

The House will also consider Republicans’ energy policy package and a slate of amendments this week.

The Senate is voting on amendments and final passage of legislation to repeal the 2002 Iraq War authorization.

Key Hearings

  • A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee met this morning to examine the government response to the toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. Information and video here.
  • The Congressional-Executive Commission on China held its first hearing of the year this morning, focused on human rights in Tibet and transnational repression of Tibetans living around the world. Information and video here.
  • Officials involved in the Biden administration’s response to recent bank failures testified before the Senate committee that deals with banking this morning. They will also testify before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday morning. Information and livestream here and here.
  • Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz will testify during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing about unions Wednesday morning. A Starbucks barista and fired Starbucks worker leader will also appear. Information and livestream here.
  • Attorney General Merrick Garland will appear before a House Appropriations subcommittee Wednesday morning to discuss the administration’s budget request for the Department of Justice. Information and livestream here.
  • Government officials monitoring aid to Ukraine will testify during a House Foreign Affairs oversight hearing Wednesday morning. Information and livestream here.
  • Local Washington, D.C., officials will appear before a House Oversight and Accountability hearing about the city’s management on Wednesday morning. Information and livestream here

Of Note

Refugee Admissions Still Slumping Under Biden

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is home after injury rehabilitation

Biden’s nominees hit the Senate skids

Biden acts to restrict U.S. government use of spyware

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