Key Republican says House GOP border bill is ‘absolutely dead’

Tony Gonzales, Elise Stefanik, Kevin McCarthy
FILE – Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, center, accompanied by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., left, and House Republican Conference chair Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., right, speaks at a news conference on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, July 29, 2021. Gonzales is facing a rare potential censure back home over votes that included supporting new gun safety laws after the Uvalde school shooting that was in his district. A censure Saturday by the Republican Party of Texas would underline how the two-term congressman’s willingness to break with conservatives on key issues. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File) Andrew Harnik/AP

Key Republican says House GOP border bill is ‘absolutely dead’

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EXCLUSIVE — A Texas Republican who for months has single-handedly blocked the House GOP’s efforts to pass a bill that leadership has claimed would end the border crisis said the proposal was “absolutely dead” under his watch.

Rep. Tony Gonzales said in an exclusive interview with the Washington Examiner on Monday evening that he would not allow the House Freedom Caucus-backed Border Safety and Security Act of 2023 to advance.


“HR 29 is dead. It is absolutely dead,” Gonzales, a second-term lawmaker who represents residents across 800 miles of the 1,950-mile U.S.-Mexico border, said. “I won’t have the House Republicans just pass a bill that has zero chance of any sustainability in solving the problem.”

House GOP leadership had attempted to use a bill by Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) as the vehicle to tackle the historic levels of illegal immigration over the past two years. The proposal was one of eight bills in a package that would deal with immigration and border issues.

The border bill was part of a collection that leadership had planned to push through easily after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) took the gavel in early January. But holdouts from the conservative House Freedom Caucus forced McCarthy to make major concessions in order to get the faction’s votes.

Roy’s bill was added to the immigration package. It would give the Department of Homeland Security the authority to bar at any time the admission and release into the United States of any non-U.S. citizen while they go through yearslong court proceedings. If the secretary of homeland security does allow illegal immigrants to reside in the U.S. out of federal custody, state attorneys general could sue.

Gonzales called the idea “un-Christian” because it would bar legitimate asylum-seekers from getting temporary protection in the U.S.

“There is no one more committed to solving this problem, but I am not going to allow politics to be played, and I’ll push back against anyone to that point. HR 29 is a bad bill and it is dead,” Gonzales said Monday, following his trip to Mexico City with a bipartisan delegation that met with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador about border issues and solutions. “No one is going to out-border me.”

In the lead-up to the midterm elections last November, Republicans advertised their plan to introduce policies that would reduce the number of people attempting to enter the U.S. illegally. The plans largely consisted of re-implementing policies from the Trump administration, some of which are tied up in court battles or were rescinded by Biden.

Republicans initially followed through on vows to hold the Biden administration accountable for its enforcement of federal immigration policies over the past two years.

The House Oversight, Homeland Security, and Judiciary committees put Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on notice last year that they would hold hearings to investigate the border crisis and could move to impeach him. Two members have put forward impeachment letters, and committees have held hearings at locations on the border, oftentimes descending into partisan disputes between members.

Last week, Republican leadership in the House put the brakes on the bill before it was scheduled to go through the Judiciary Committee for markups.

Gonzales said behind the scenes, he was taking action to come up with a solution that would have meat on its bones.

He said he had met with conservative members of the House GOP conference and leadership. “I’ve met with all these different actors,” he said. “We have to enforce the laws that are in the books. That’s the executive branch’s job, and it’s Congress’s job to push them, in my opinion, through appropriations. I’d also say it’s Congress’s job to get off its ass and work on immigration reform.”

“Immigration reform starts with work visas,” Gonzales continued. “What I see happening is everybody is focused on trying to combat and work on the illegal part of it. There has to be some legal aspects that alleviate some of the stress.”

With a slim 222-213 majority in the House, Republicans can only afford to lose a handful of votes for legislation to pass. GOP leadership intends to nail down full party support before the bills leave the committee, an aide told the Washington Examiner on Thursday.


Congress has failed to pass comprehensive immigration reforms for nearly three decades. This year marks the 10-year anniversary since the last major attempt in 2013 when the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” came up short.

Roy did not respond to a request for comment.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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