May 19, 2024

Senator James Lankford (R-OK) was one of the key negotiators for the bipartisan border bill that failed to secure passage in the U.S. House (largely because the majority of Republicans felt the bill didn’t do nearly enough to secure the border).

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On Sunday, Lankford joined CNN host Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” to discuss the need for solutions regarding the border — and why he doesn’t hesitate to support former President Donald Trump in his bid to unseat President Joe Biden in November. 

Here was their exchange on the issue: 

TAPPER: You endorsed Donald Trump this week, right after his Super Tuesday win in the Oklahoma primary, among others. Was it at all difficult to support Donald Trump after he essentially was responsible for killing your legislation?  He smeared the bill. He lied about the bill — legislation you worked hard on and you believe would not only improve the situation at the border, would maybe even save lives. Did you have any compunctions about it? 

LANKFORD: Yeah, it is frustrating because there’s so much misinformation that came out. But supporting Donald Trump against Joe Biden at this point — seeing the two sets of policies — could not be more stark. Where we have the highest number of illegal crossings…under President Trump, was less than a million; we’re now pushing three million with President Biden. To see the way that President Trump enforced the border and worked on national security versus how President Biden, under the exact same set of laws, is actually doing that — there’s just no contest between the two of which one’s more focused on national security issues, which one’s more focused on actually securing the border. So…there’s no contest between the two. 

Obviously, President Trump is running for president right now. He wants this to be able to stay a major focus during the course of the rest of the year so people can see the stark contrast of that. My focus is — and the reason I’m continuing to be able to work on the bill and legislation right now — is no matter who is president this year, next year, or 10 years from now, we do have gaps in our asylum law that need to be fixed. So, no matter who is president, that can actually be resolved and we can actually have a faster resolution to be able to secure the nation. 

TAPPER: Do you have any real hope for any serious border legislation? I understand your point about President Biden executive action, but…this looked like the best chance for a conservative — at least conservative-leaning — border bill, and Republicans in the House wouldn’t take “Yes” for an answer. They demanded that it include “Remain in Mexico” and other things that you weren’t able to get in your negotiation. And, so Republicans in the Senate wouldn’t even vote on it. I mean, is there really any hope? 

LANKFORD: I don’t think there’s any hope in this year on trying to be able to move real action that would really make a difference on the border, like what this bill was. Interestingly enough, you mention the “Remain in Mexico” piece — it was actually protected. President Biden could do “Remain in Mexico” right now. In fact, a court has ordered him to leave that process in place, so that process is in place. That policy could be actually implemented right now. Again, that’s one of the executive actions that President Biden chooses not to be able to enforce. 

There are a lot of things he could do, as I reminded the president and his team. President Obama enforced the border much better than President Biden did with the exact same set of laws. If President Biden doesn’t want to enforce it the way President Trump did, at least enforce it like President Obama did. President Obama — his high years were about half a million people. Again, we’re at three million people under President Biden. If President Biden would just enforce it the same way President Obama did or President Trump did, this would be a very different border and a very different situation in cities like New York and Chicago and Denver and all over the country, where they are crying out for the president to enforce the law. 

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Lankford makes a compelling case here. Setting aside the border bill itself, President Biden has the authority and ability to remedy the situation — at least mitigate it — but in his quest to be as Not Trump as he possibly can, he won’t even take a page from his former boss’s book. Maybe he considers that a plus — doing it his way. Most of us don’t. 

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Incidentally, Frank Sinatra was 79 when he gave his last performance of “My Way,” featured in the above video. 

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