Biden reaches out to Republican leaders for support of border bill

By Thomson Reuters May 20, 2024 | 8:32 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden on Monday urged Republican leaders in the House and Senate to support a revived bipartisan bill on border security, even as House Speaker Mike Johnson declared the bill would be “dead on arrival.”

Democrats are again trying to pass the Border Act, which they say would reform U.S. asylum laws, hire thousands of border agents and help curtail fentanyl smuggling.

Record numbers of migrants have been caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border since Biden took office in 2021 and border security has become one of the leading presidential campaign issues ahead of the Nov. 5 election that will pit Biden against former President Donald Trump.

In February, a version of the bill stalled in the Senate after Trump told Republicans not to support it even though it contained several border-security measures they had sought. Biden and other Democrats said Trump undercut the bill in order to keep the border debate alive during the campaign.

Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer on Sunday announced the Senate would seek to pass the new bill this week, after which the White House said it strongly supported the legislation.

In the president’s calls to Johnson and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Biden asked congressional Republicans to “stop playing politics” and quickly pass the legislation, the White House said.

Before the president reached out, leaders of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives called the bill politically motivated.

“Should it reach the House, the bill would be dead on arrival,” Johnson and other Republicans said in a statement.

The previous legislation was tied to U.S. foreign aid for Ukraine and Israel, but this bill would stand alone, Schumer said.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington and Daniel Trotta in Carlsbad, California; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)