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Biden gets help from blue-state governors as border deal falters

BOSTON — The White House is turning to blue-state governors to help salvage its border deal that appears to be on the brink of collapse.

Democratic governors whose states are grappling with a surge of migrants have been in talks with the White House about turning up the pressure on Congress to pass the Senate bill as Republicans threaten to doom the deal, according to two state officials familiar with the conversations who were granted anonymity to discuss the strategy.

The White House also confirmed it has been in talks with elected leaders across the country about supporting the bill.

“We’re going on offense because guess what? There was a solution sitting right in front of you,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Tuesday of Republicans on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“It was gift wrapped. You could have taken it. You could have helped solve this problem,” Hochul continued, “and I guarantee Republican governors on the border wanted this to happen.”

Democratic leaders in northern cities and states that are now on the front lines of the migrant crisis have long been pressuring Congress and President Joe Biden to toughen up on the southern border. But with a deal now on the table, they’re playing proxy for the White House in a battle it looks increasingly likely that Biden and his allies will lose.

Hochul in particular has seized the bully pulpit in a state that has seen more than 180,000 new migrants since 2022, berating New York’s House Republicans in television appearances and press conferences for trying to tank the deal in a flash of uncharacteristic aggressiveness.

And she’s threatening to make its failure a cudgel in key congressional races in the New York City suburbs that could tip control of the House. A border deal and the migrant issue has become the top issue in a special election next Tuesday on Long Island to replace disgraced former GOP Rep. George Santos.

“Those Republicans in our state … just signed a suicide pact together,” Hochul said on MSNBC. “They’re gonna be hung with this.”

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey is also going on the offensive — calling on House Republican leaders who declared the bill “dead on arrival” to quit their election-year posturing and pass it “without delay.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, too, has reupped his calls for Congress to act.

“Rather than complain endlessly about [the] lack of border security, let’s finally secure the border,” Polis posted on X.

House Republican leaders are facing pressure from former President Donald Trump not to hand Biden a win in an election year and backlash from GOP governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis, who blasted the deal as a “farce” that’s “basically legalizing illegal immigration.”

Republicans, including some GOP governors, are showing no signs of listening to the president or his Democratic deputies. GOP infighting in the Senate is diminishing the bill’s chances of passing the upper chamber. And Biden is even losing support for the deal within his own party.

But Democratic governors and mayors who’ve run out of resources to serve the tens of thousands of migrants who have flooded into their states and cities have little choice but to fight for the deal.

“We don’t expect it to be perfect,” Denver Mayor Mike Johnston said Monday on CNN about the border bill.

But “we have moms and kids sleeping on the streets in tents, and we’re also looking at a $180 million impact to our budget this year without support,” Johnston said. “And both of those are unacceptable to us.”

Nine governors in blue states last month wrote a letter to Biden and Congress to urge a remedy “to a humanitarian crisis.”

The $118 billion deal a bipartisan group of senators put forward on Sunday would throw billions of dollars at border security, overhaul the asylum process and give the president the authority to shut down the southern border once crossings reach a certain threshold.

It includes several key provisions that Democratic mayors and governors have been advocating for, such as speeding up work authorizations for asylum-seekers and funneling $1.4 billion into a program that sends money to local governments and nonprofits sheltering migrants.

Those funds are sorely needed in Massachusetts, a “right-to-shelter” state that is spending more than $45 million a month providing shelter and basic services to more than 7,500 migrant and homeless families. Healey’s administration expects those costs will approach $1 billion by next summer.

“This bipartisan national security bill would make critical progress toward fixing our broken federal immigration system,” Healey, the Massachusetts governor, said in a statement. “It’s time to put politics aside — Congress should pass this bill without delay.”

New York is looking to budget $2.4 billion to address the ongoing influx of migrants to New York City, where services are under extraordinary strain.

“We’re seeing the visual of what a failed national policy is producing,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who has criticized Biden over the lack of federal action on immigration. “And when I speak to my colleagues in other cities, they’re saying the same thing. It’s not unique to New York. We have to fix this with a national solution.”

New York City also has a “right-to-shelter” law, but Adams wants to end it in the case of the migrants. The policy change is in court.

Hochul’s office has excoriated the state’s House Republicans for saying they would not take up the Senate package. A top aide to the governor urged the lawmakers in a letter “stop grandstanding and work collaboratively on a serious solution” for the immigration bill.

House Republicans, however, have responded with disdain. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), the GOP conference chair and a potential running mate for Trump, accused Hochul of having “rolled out the red carpet for illegals” only to pull it back ahead of a high-stakes election season.

As Democrats target their congressional delegations, GOP governors have kept their ire trained on Biden.

In the lead-up to the border bill’s release, more than a dozen Republican governors went to the Texas border over the weekend to blast Biden for not doing enough to stem the tide of crossings. In the days afterward, with the deal on increasingly shaky ground, they have renewed their criticism of Biden and their pledges to send more of their states’ National Guard troops to the southern border.

But Hochul has called the border deal a “game changer” for states that are “trying to deal with this unprecedented crush of humanity.”

“The only thing standing in the way,” she said at an unrelated event on Monday, “is that the House Republicans refuse to take action.”

Nicholas Reisman, Gary Fineout, Myah Ward and Jeff Coltin contributed to this report.

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Author: POLITICO