Kimberly P. Yow

Kimberly P. Yow

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Top House GOP group urges Speaker Johnson to work with senators on border security

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EXCLUSIVE: An influential House GOP caucus is urging Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., to work with “willing partners” in the Senate on a border security reform deal in a Tuesday morning letter outlining their priorities for the new GOP leader.

The business-minded Main Street Caucus outlined three major points they are calling the speaker’s attention to: Avoiding a government shutdown, establishing a debt commission, and enhancing national security.

“Main Street Republicans stand ready to work with you to continue advancing a pragmatic, conservative agenda during the remainder of the 118th Congress,” the letter said.

On national security, the GOP lawmakers specifically called for Johnson’s attention to border security and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). 

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House Republicans’ border security bill H.R. 2, a marquee piece of legislation for the GOP majority, has been declared a non-starter for the Democratically-held Senate and White House. Conservatives’ attempts to attach it to a stopgap spending bill for averting a government shutdown were thwarted by Republican hardliners opposed to any short-term funding. 

But Main Street Republicans suggested they would support a watered-down version of the deal if it could pass the upper chamber of Congress.

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“While our bill did not pass the House, it was clear there was willingness among many Senators to find solutions to the border crisis,” the letter said. “We ask that you prioritize a plan to secure the border with willing partners in the Senate as soon as possible.”

On the FISA front, their call to reauthorize it “with input from across the Conference” is likely to cause friction with a few of the more libertarian members of the House GOP.

The lawmakers are also calling on Johnson to avoid a government shutdown “by immediately resuming the appropriations schedule that was interrupted” by ex-Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s removal nearly four weeks ago.

“Funding to pay our troops and [Customs and Border Patrol] agents and officers and to keep government open expires on November 17, and the House is far behind its projected schedule,” the letter said.

And if a short-term extension of last year’s funding is needed to buy lawmakers more time, the Main Street Caucus urged Johnson to tack on an extension of the Farm Bill – a must-pass piece of legislation covering a wide range of programs, from rural broadband to urban food assistance. 

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Johnson has already made clear he will prioritize passing the House GOP’s 12 individual appropriations bills. Hours before he was elected speaker last week, Johnson released a tentative schedule outlining how the remaining bills will get done. 

The House passed its fifth spending bill the day after Johnson was elected, and the speaker is aiming to pass three more this week. 

The Main Street Caucus’s remaining priority is the establishment of a bipartisan, bicameral commission to study the federal debt – something Johnson also suggested was a goal of his. 

The letter is just one set of priorities Johnson will have to deal with as he takes control of the House GOP’s razor-thin majority. He was elected unanimously by the House Republican Conference last week.

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