The spending bill is moving through the U.S. House of Representatives, but border issues are dividing Texas Republicans
The spending bill is moving through the U.S. House of Representatives, but border issues are dividing Texas Republicans

WASHINGTON — Republicans regularly criticize President Joe Biden for policies they say encourage illegal immigration, but U.S. Rep. Chip Roy of Austin said the blame also lies with GOP lawmakers who voted Friday on the latest spending bill.

The bill, Roy said, funds Biden’s border policies, which affects every Republican who supported the measure.

To make his point, Roy highlighted a viral video showing a crowd of migrants pushing their way through barriers on Thursday and overpowering Texas National Guard troops near El Paso. He also referenced the murder of Georgia nursing student Laken Riley and a Venezuelan immigrant who entered the country illegally and is charged with her murder.

Republicans who supported the bill “own” the policies behind the migrant wave, Roy said Friday.

“My fellow Republicans can’t campaign against mass parole and use Laken Riley’s name because you’re passing a bill in her name when you’re funding the same policies that led to her death,” Roy said.

The $1.2 trillion legislation approved Friday by the House of Representatives that would avoid a partial government shutdown covers multiple agencies, including the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security. It was the second collection of two parts of fiscal 2024 spending bills that were supposed to be finalized months ago.

The bill passed 286-134, with 101 Republicans in favor and 112 opposed. Support was overwhelming across the aisle, with 185 Democrats in favor and 22 opposed.

Roy said Republicans have abandoned their position that funding for the Department of Homeland Security should be contingent on the passage of House Resolution 2, a GOP package of hardline immigration and border policies.

Republicans who supported the bill defended their votes, in part by citing the need to fund the military.

U.S. Rep. Jake Elzey, R-Midlothian, was one of six Texas Republicans who voted for the bill.

Ellzey defended his vote by citing constitutional provisions related to Congress’s role in supporting armies and maintaining navies.

“This is my constitutional duty and I have fulfilled it. Everything else comes second,” Elsie said. “And the border is the president’s fault, not mine.”

He said the bill ensures Border Patrol agents will be paid and includes a pay raise for the military that is desperately needed by those at the lowest levels struggling with inflation.

Elzey said he was proud to do his duty and send a signal to enemies overseas that the United States will fully fund its armed forces.

“We will buy the ships and weapons systems we need to defend our nation, and we have shown determination,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Humble, who also voted for the bill, said it doesn’t include all of the Republican border priorities but has provisions taken directly from HR 2, such as hiring more Border Patrol agents and providing more beds for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

He encouraged Republican critics of the bill to focus on other legislation to force changes in border policy, citing the challenge of the razor-thin Republican majority in the House.

“Not voting means my friends in the SEALs could miss mortgage payments,” Crenshaw said. “You have to take these bills holistically. It’s never perfect. We barely have a majority. … You have to incorporate the political reality you live in into your strategies.”

The other four Texas Republicans who voted for the bill were U.S. Reps. John Carter of Round Rock, Monica De La Cruz of McAllen, Kay Granger of Fort Worth and Michael McCall of Austin. Three Texas Republicans missed the vote: U.S. Reps. Michael Burgess of Pilot Point, Roger Williams of Willow Park and Troy Nels of Richmond.

All Texas Democrats voted for the legislation except for U.S. Reps. Greg Cassar of Austin and Joaquin Castro of San Antonio.

U.S. Congressman Colin Allred, D-Dallas, who is running against incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, belongs to the Democrats for Border Security group, which is touting border-related funding in the bill. They cited funding for a record 22,000 Border Patrol agents, money for new border security technology and grant funding going to border law enforcement agencies.

Roy downplayed the impact of those provisions, saying he expected the Biden administration to use the extra Border Patrol agents funded by the bill to process more migrants crossing the border. He predicted that additional ICE detention beds would go unused.

The Republicans who voted for the bill, Roy said, “own the borders wide open, causing death and destruction. They own the fentanyl that is pouring into the communities. If you finance it, you own it.

The bill is expected to pass the Senate, although the exact timing is unclear.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, voted in favor of the bill Friday afternoon, while Cruz voted against it.

Told of Roy’s comments, Cornyn noted that the fiery congressman once worked for him.

“He’s a smart, well-intentioned guy, but I think rhetorically sometimes he skips the skis,” Cornyn said, adding that the key to dealing with the border is changing who occupies the White House. “We all know Joe Biden won’t enforce the law, so we need a new president.”

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