Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., is determined to strike a border security deal in the national security supplemental aid package, no matter how long it takes – but the White House hasn’t advanced to offering a proposal in writing yet.
“I’m gonna keep working as long as it’s daylight, and that’s the biblical admonition,” Lankford told Fox News Digital in an interview Thursday. “As long as there’s a shot, you just keep working, and then at some point, you realize they’ve run the clock out.”
The Senate was expected to recess on Thursday for the holidays, but Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. filed a cloture vote on judicial nominees that could extend the upper chamber’s work until the end of Friday.
Lankford is part of a small group of negotiators fighting to get a stronger border security bill included in the Biden administration’s $106 billion supplemental request first sent to Congress in October. Republicans have argued for weeks that some $60 billion in aid to Ukraine must be tied to stricter border policies here at home, while Democrats have remained mostly unmoved – until this week – by proposals to slow the influx of illegal migrants.
“The language when you go through immigration law is incredibly technical, and so far, the White House so far has not been willing to actually put things down in writing and go through that written process,” Lankford said.
Prior to this week, Biden officials weren’t involved in the negotiations with lawmakers. But as the clock nears the end of the Senate session until January and with aid to Israel and Ukraine still in limbo, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and other White House officials stepped in.
“The White House has been so slow in actually coming to the table and working through the issues,” Lankford said. “This all has to be right – if the whole system doesn’t work, then you can’t do a little bit of border security, you’ve got to actually manage the border.”
He added, “And so at this point, if things don’t come together very, very quickly, this moves to January.”
On Thursday, some GOP lawmakers said that even if a deal is reached, there won’t be enough time before the holidays to review it and schedule a vote. Lankford said lawmakers will need more time “to know what’s in it,” and to ensure that it is a feasible deal that could actually pass the GOP-led House.
Republicans are asking for immediate and heightened security screenings for asylum seekers, more detention beds to detain individuals, and additional parole officers.
“We don’t know anything about them – with no criminal history, we know nothing,” Lankford said.
The current supplemental package earmarks $14 billion for some border measures, such as additional agents and quicker asylum processing, but does not include policy changes
The administration was reportedly open to a nationwide expansion of expedited removal, which allows for recently entered migrants to be quickly removed if they do not meet the initial asylum standard. Rapid expulsions are currently only being used near the border.
CBS reported this week that the White House was willing to mandate the detention of certain migrants as their claims are considered, as well as a new Title 42-style authority. Title 42 was the COVID-era order that allowed for the rapid expulsion of migrants at the southern border until the Biden administration ended the policy in May.
Fox News reported that Tuesday saw another day in which overwhelmed officials at the border encountered more than 10,000 migrants in a single day.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.