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Molly Butler / Media Matters

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Right-wing media threaten to oust GOP lawmakers for failing to negotiate tougher immigration policies in new budget deal

Conservative media figures claim GOP negotiators are adopting Democratic concessions while failing to push for stricter immigration policies

As Republican and Democratic congressional leadership negotiated with the White House over budget and border deals, right-wing media are accusing House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) of submitting to Democrats’ policy priorities instead of demanding even harsher restrictions at the southern border. Some in conservative media have even suggested that Johnson should be stripped of his office and advocated for primary challenges to stop Lankford from being reelected.

  • The deal to extend government funding came under fire from right-wing politicians who argue the stopgap bill is too soft on immigration 

    • Congress passed a budget agreement January 18 just ahead of a deadline when some government agencies would have run out of funding and before a snow storm hit the U.S. capital. [NPR, 1/18/24]
    • Though House Speaker Mike Johnson has used the budget bill to push restrictive border policies, members of the staunchly conservative House Freedom Caucus pushed him to seek ever more immigration measures and refuse to compromise with Democrats. [NPR, 1/18/24]
    • As talks over the stopgap bill progressed over the last week, right-wing media distorted the negotiation process. In recent days, conservative media figures have ignored Republicans stonewalling the Biden administration’s immigration proposals and pressured lawmakers to allow a government shutdown to occur if conservative demands on immigration restrictions aren’t met. [Media Matters, 1/10/24, 1/11/24]
    • Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), who has acted as a lead negotiatior on border policy, is also under conservative scrutiny for his work with Senate Democrats to strike a deal, with one GOP senator questioning whether Lankford could successfully sell the bill. [The Wall Street Journal, 1/15/24; The Hill, 1/11/24]
    • Former President Donald Trump has also publicly spoken out against the border compromise, writing, “I do not think we should do a Border Deal, at all, unless we get EVERYTHING needed to shut down the INVASION of Millions & Millions of people.” In addition,Trump-supporting House Freedom Caucus members are threatening to sabotage future legislation led by Johnson. [The Hill, 1/19/24; Axios, 1/18/24]
  • Right-wing media attacked Johnson and Lankford over the bill

    • War Room host Steve Bannon said that if Johnson “does not shut down the border and gives them money to continue this invasion, all bets are off.” Bannon referred to the situation as a potential “firestorm for his removal.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 1/17/24]
    • Far-right failed congressional candidate Laura Loomer claimed that Johnson “won’t secure our border unless it includes billions of dollars more for Ukraine while Americans continue to suffer.” In a long rant posted to X, Loomer also claimed Johnson doesn’t have “the balls to shut the government down.” [Twitter/X, 1/18/24]
    • Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton said Johnson’s work with the Democrats has “guaranteed to result in no government shutdown,” which is a problem because “the government shutdown process was seen by conservatives as the only effective tool to stop the worst of the worst in terms of the destruction of the republic.” [Twitter/X, 1/17/24]
    • Right-wing blog National File, which was founded by Alex Jones, posted “Breaking: Mike Johnson caves to Schumer, Biden on House, Senate budget deal.” The account also accused Johnson of giving Democrats “what they want.”  [Twitter/X, 1/14/24]
    • The Gateway Pundit published a piece criticizing Johnson for supposedly allowing the southern border to remain “wide open” amid a “national security emergency.” It also shamed Johnson for announcing a budget that was “applauded by Democrat Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.” [The Gateway Pundit, 1/17/24]
    • Former Newsmax and One America News reporter Emerald Robinson posted: “It’s time to vacate the chair.” Robinson suggested that Johnson “thought he would replace Kevin McCarthy and cut all the same deals with Democrats to keep the Biden regime happy.” [Twitter/X, 1/12/24]
    • Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk threatened to “primary and remove anyone remotely associated” with Lankford due to his “open border betrayal.” Kirk wrote that “we will have no choice but do a series of events and rallies across Oklahoma” against Lankford, adding, “We will make him the least popular Senator in America.” Kirk also told his listeners to call Lankford’s office and “tell him to WALK AWAY from this hostage negotiation.” [Twitter/X, 1/17/24]
    • Radio personality and Fox host Mark Levin posted: “Lankford sells out America.” [Twitter/X, 1/14/24]
    • Fox News contributor Sara Carter said that “any Republican” who votes for the Lankford-Schumer border deal should be “outed.” Carter also claimed that the deal would “precipitate, more illegal activity, illegal immigration, and entry into the United States,” adding, “Shut the border down and re-elect President Trump who has the courage to stand up to the lawbreakers- there is no other way round it. We have to have common sense here and eventually we can revamp the immigration system so that it is better for everyone.” [Twitter/X, 1/13/23]