The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion House Republicans are practicing political nihilism

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) at a news conference in D.C. on Nov. 14. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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If House Republicans refuse to fix the border crisis, nobody will be able to deny the obvious: The GOP is more interested in nursing grievances and stoking anger than actually solving problems. That’s exactly what Donald Trump has trained them to do.

Bipartisan Senate negotiators and the White House say they are close to a deal on legislation to alleviate what everyone agrees is an emergency. It would give Republicans much of what they want regarding the southern border — beefed-up security against illegal crossings, tightened asylum rules, provision for more detentions and expulsions, perhaps even limits on President Biden’s authority to “parole” certain groups of immigrants into the country.

The package would also approve billions of dollars in military aid for Ukraine, which the administration says is urgently needed but some House Republicans oppose. This is how bitterly contested issues are resolved in Washington: One side gets some wins and makes some concessions, the other side does the same, and both sides claim they got the better of the deal. And maybe, in the end, some good gets done.

But after Biden met with congressional leaders at the White House on Wednesday, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) immediately threw doubt on the very idea of an agreement that addresses both the border and Ukraine. His position has been that the border question has to be resolved first, and that any solution has to be based on draconian House-passed legislation that would, among other things, require building 900 miles of Trump’s border wall. For both the Senate and Biden, Johnson’s demand is a non-starter.