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RICH LOWRY: Give Biden the border shutdown authority he wants

Perhaps the most head-spinning statement of the Biden years came about a week ago when President Joe Biden endorsed an impending Senate immigration deal so he could “shut down” the border.

This, after the president had dismantled all of the Trump policies that had secured the border; after Biden and his minions had refused for years to call the chaos at the border a “crisis”; after doing all he could to redirect illegal immigrants to newly created legal channels to launder them into the country through different means.

Then, all of a sudden, when the calendar flipped from 2023 to the election year of 2024, Biden sounded like a Donald Trump-style border hawk.

The Senate deal represents Biden’s best chance to try to escape the border morass of his own creation. The latest NBC News poll highlights the president’s dilemma — he trails Trump by 35 points on who would do a better job securing the border. But what Biden and the Democrats are hoping is that they can turn the politics of immigration on its head by blaming Republicans for rejecting a solution to the border out of sheer partisan cussedness and loyalty to Trump, who vociferously opposes the deal.

“We need help,” Biden said after the bill was released. “Why won’t they give me the help?” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, asked: “Will the senators drown out the political noise from Trump and his minions and do the right thing for America? It’s a crucial question. History is looking down on every one of us right now.”

It’s not obvious when Democrats began to think that cracking down on the border is the way to be on “the right side of history,” but clearly a memo went out sometime over the past month.

It’s not as though Biden has been trying his utmost to control the border and then in frustration came to Congress for new authorities because he’s exhausted every one he already has. He’s ignored the pleas for help from border states, disregarded the distress of big-city Democrat mayors, and looked away from the damning images of long lines of illegal immigrants from all over the world walking into the country.

His position now is, effectively, that Congress has to stop him from continuing on his current course lest things truly get out of hand. If this doesn’t make much sense, at the very least he’s, for now, divided the GOP on an issue that had united them. It’s unclear how much Biden can get from this, given that he’s president and the border failures have been on his watch.

Still, it behooves Republican opponents of the deal to try to limit any potential political damage. The GOP House should counter by offering a simple, easy-to-understand bill to give Biden the clear, immediate authority to shut down the border without any of the triggers or limits of the Senate deal, or other complex provisions.

The GOP’s posture should be, “You, Mr. President, say you want to be a border hawk. Well, we think you already have the ability to do much more than you’re doing now, but regardless, here’s a new, unmistakable codification of your ability, nay, responsibility, to exclude all illegal immigrants. Have at it.”

If Biden took that deal, it would represent a complete surrender. If he rejected it, as is likely, it would once again show his lack of seriousness about border security.

Rich Lowry is on X @RichLowry.

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