On January 11, Rep. Nathaniel Moran (R-Texas) introduced H. Res. 957—"Denouncing the Biden administration's open-borders policies, condemning the national security and public safety crisis along the southwest border, and urging President Biden to end his administration's open-borders policies”. That non-binding resolution isn’t exceptional, but what is out of the ordinary is that on the evening of January 17, 14 House Democrats voted with 211 of their GOP colleagues to pass it. There are cracks in the Democratic caucus over border policies that are increasingly unpopular with Americans, but will those cracks remain when the vote matters, over issues like impeaching DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, or for real border reforms? We may soon see.
Bills and Resolutions. For those unfamiliar with the ways of Capitol Hill, here’s a quick primer.
There are basically four types of legislation one or both houses can consider: bills, which can become federal law if passed by both chambers and signed by the president; joint resolutions, which are considered by both the House and the Senate (usually for appropriations purposes), and which are all-but identical to bills; concurrent resolutions, which must be passed by both chambers but don’t require the president’s signature, used to amend rules that bind the Congress as a whole or to express specific sentiments; and simple resolutions, which only require passage by one chamber, usually to amend its rules or express the sentiments of a majority in that chamber.
Joint resolutions are identifiable because they are denominated “H. J. Res.” or “S. J. Res.” (depending on the chamber they started in); concurrent resolutions are captioned “H. Con. Res.” Or S. Con. Res.”; and simple resolutions are distinguished by the caption “H. Res.” Or “S. Res.”
H. Res. 957 is thus a simple, one-chamber resolution, and as the Senate explains, such vehicles “may give ‘advice’ on foreign policy or other executive business” but “do not have the force of law”.
H. Res. 957. It may not have legal force, but H. Res. 957 plainly makes a statement. It begins: “Denouncing the Biden administration’s open-borders policies, condemning the national security and public safety crisis along the southwest border, and urging President Biden to end his administration’s open-borders policies.” That kind of tells you where this is going.
It continues, in pertinent part:
Whereas the United States is in the midst of the worst border security crisis in the Nation’s history;
Whereas, during every month of the Biden administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has encountered more than 100,000 illegal aliens along the southwest border;
Whereas the Biden administration has released at least 3.3 million of those illegal aliens into the interior of the United States;
Whereas, during the Biden administration, more than 1.7 million known illegal alien “gotaways” have successfully evaded U.S. Border Patrol along the southwest border;
Whereas the Biden administration created the illegal alien crisis at the southwest border by terminating the Migrant Protection Protocols, halting border wall construction, abusing parole authority, mass releasing millions of illegal aliens into the country, and implementing policies that incentivize illegal immigration, among other actions;
Whereas the Biden administration systematically dismantled immigration enforcement and restricted the ability of immigration officials to deport aliens who violate United States law, ensuring relatively few aliens, including criminal aliens, are removed from the country;
Whereas the Biden administration’s lax immigration enforcement policies have resulted in numerous violent criminal aliens being released into United States communities;
Whereas the Biden administration’s historic border crisis has made every State a border State;
Whereas the Biden administration refuses to use tools already at its disposal to end the border crisis; and
Whereas the Biden administration’s proposed solution to the historic border crisis — legislation to grant amnesty to tens of millions of illegal aliens — will do nothing but incentivize additional illegal immigration: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives—
(1) denounces the Biden administration’s open-borders policies;
(2) condemns the national security and public safety crisis that President Joe Biden, “Border Czar” Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, and other Biden administration officials have created along the southwest border; and
(3) urges President Biden to end his administration’s open-borders policies.
The omitted clauses have to do with the massive spike in aliens on the terrorist watchlist who have been apprehended at the Southwest border under Biden, the role Biden’s “lax border enforcement policies” have played in the fentanyl crisis, and the fact that nobody really knows how many got-aways have able evaded CBP detection. Honestly, the whole document reads like a summary of my posts over the past three years.
The 14 Democratic “Ayes”. This resolution plainly reflects Moran’s frustration, but then there are any number of similar resolutions introduced that run the gamut between the “voice of one crying in the wilderness” and simple mewling.
This one, however, is exceptional because (as noted) it’s not just a partisan affair.
Roll Call vote 13, on passage of that resolution, reveals that 211 Republicans voted in favor (nine didn’t vote, likely because they weren’t around or had other business), as did 14 Democrats: Reps. Colin Z. Allred (Texas); Yadira Caraveo (Colo.); Angie Craig (Minn.); Donald G. Davis (N.C.); Jared F. Golden (Maine); Vicente Gonzalez (Texas); Greg Landsman (Ohio); Susie Lee (Nev.); Jared Moskowitz (Fla.); Wiley Nickel (N.C.); Mary Sattler Peltola (Alaska); Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (Wash.); Eric Sorensen (Ill.); and Henry Cuellar (Texas).
Cuellar — who represents Laredo — has been critical of the president’s border policies since early in Biden’s term, while Gonzalez (McAllen and its environs) has generally been either quietly supportive or agnostic. He beat then-Rep. Mayra Flores (R) — the wife of a Border Patrol agent — in 2022 when the seat was redistricted by more than eight points, but Gonzalez may be feeling some heat in an expected rematch.
Golden was the lone House Democrat to vote against that chamber’s version of H.R.5376, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which included a “parole” amnesty for aliens present prior to January 1, 2011. He and Gluesenkamp Perez were the only two Democrats to vote for H.R. 4367, “The Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act”, which — according to the House GOP conference — “Secures our southwest border by ... [p]roviding $496 million for 22,000 Border Patrol Agents, the highest level ever funded”.
Golden won his last race by just over six points in 2022, but his massive Maine Second District — essentially everything in the state north of Portland — might as well be in a different country (and has its own border issues). Perez, on the other hand, barely eked out a .8-point victory in her 2022 run for the Washington Third Congressional District (north of Portland, Ore., and well south of Tacoma).
Then there’s Caraveo, who also won her last race for Colorado 8 (north Denver to Greely) in a squeaker, by just .7 points (fewer than 2,000 votes) last go-round. Craig took the Minnesota 2 (south of the Twin Cities) election by more than five points during the midterms.
Davis did just slightly less well in his North Carolina 1 race (winning by just less than five points), but that district — in the northeastern corner of the state, not including the Outer Banks — has been redistricted to make it more competitive for the GOP in the next election.
Fellow North Carolinian Wiley Nickel won reelection in the North Carolina 13th Congressional District (south Raleigh to northwest of Fayetteville) by just fewer than three points in 2022, but that seat has also been redistricted to make it more Republican-friendly, so he’s running for the Senate instead (but not until 2026).
Landsman beat incumbent Rep. Greg Chabot (R) for the Ohio First Congressional District seat (running from the Kentucky border northeast, including Cincinnati) by fewer than five points in 2022, but Chabot — who had held the competitive seat on and off since 1994 — isn’t yet seeking a rematch. The only announced GOP candidate for the seat is Orlando Sonza, a West Point grad.
Lee won her race for Nevada 3 (west Las Vegas and south to the Arizona border) by an even four points in 2022, but as AP has explained, “Her swing district has long been considered the state’s most competitive, although more Democratic voters were added to the district in 2021, when the Nevada Legislature redrew state and congressional districts”. That said, most polls have shown former President Trump leading President Biden in the Silver State, which could mean down-ticket gains for the GOP.
Moskowitz won his race for the Florida 23 seat (Boca Raton) by just less than five points in 2022, while Peltola — whose district includes all of Alaska — won that red-state seat by 10 points, largely due to its unusual “ranked-choice voting”, which pitted two Republicans (including Sarah Palin) against each other.
Conscience Aside ... Perhaps all or some of those 14 House Democrats are truly ready to take an unpopular stand within their own party by voting for H. Res. 957 for the good of the country and to stop the obvious negative impacts Biden’s “open-borders policies” are inflicting on the Republic. That’s a possibility.
Conscience aside, however, it’s possible that all of them can read the writing on the wall and are unwilling to sacrifice their seats — or their shots at the Senate in the cases of Nickel and Allred — for policies that don’t make much sense, aren’t legal in any practical sense, and are unpopular with not just Republicans but also swing-voter Independents.
Take, for instance, a just-released poll conducted for The Economist by survey outfit YouGov, which took the political pulse of 1,660 U.S. citizens. It reveals that a more modest 61 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Biden is doing with respect to immigration (with 28 percent approving), but that’s only the beginning.
That poll, like most polls performed for The Economist, is Democrat-heavy — of the 1,648 respondents who answered that question, 585 (35.5 percent) were Democrats, while 583 identified as Independents (35.3 percent) and just 480 as Republicans (29.1 percent).
The most recent Gallup poll — which came out last week — found that an all-time high of 43 percent of Americans identify as Independents, while the two main political parties claim the allegiance of an even number — 27 percent — of the electorate.
Even still, that latest The Economist poll shows that disapproval of Biden’s handling of immigration is accelerating. In the same poll one month earlier (December 16 to 18), 32 percent of respondents approved of the job Biden was doing on this issue, with 56 percent disapproving. That’s a nine-point swing to the red in a month.
That’s all happening while — again according to The Economist’s polling — Americans are becoming more concerned about immigration. In September, just 6 percent of respondents identified it as the most important issue to them; in October, it rose to 7 percent; by December, it was 8 percent. In the most recent poll, it was the most important issue of 11 percent of respondents.
Returning to that latest survey, the internals tell a very different story than the toplines, with a solid majority — 59 percent — of Democrats happy with Biden’s handling of immigration compared to 31 percent who disapproved.
By contrast, two-thirds of Independents — 66 percent — are displeased with Biden’s immigration performance, while just 14 percent approve. For Republican voters, not surprisingly, those results are even worse — 87 percent disapprove while just 9 percent approve.
There is a clear split between Democrats and everybody else in the electorate when it comes to Biden and his immigration policies. The president’s fellow partisans largely like what he’s doing, but they’re in the minority. If you’re a Democrat in a heavily Democratic seat, you go along with the White House to get along with your voters.
But if you’re a Democratic candidate who won your last election by five or fewer points, or are seeking a competitive Senate seat, you can’t afford to be on the wrong side of a majority of swing voters on an issue that is increasingly a liability for the person at the top of the ticket.
The House resolution denouncing Joe Biden’s “open-borders policies” isn’t binding, so it doesn’t mean much. The vote on it speaks volumes, however, about the concerns Democratic incumbents in tight races have about those policies. The question is whether they or other vulnerable Democrats vote the part line on real issues, like impeaching Biden’s DHS secretary or voting for real border reforms. They may soon have the chance.