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Sen. Lindsey Graham discusses border visit, infrastructure bill and debt ceiling

Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 9:47 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (WIS) - Sen. Lindsey Graham says the Biden administration’s policies at the southern border are overwhelming border patrol agents and putting national security at risk.

Now the South Carolina Republican says the administration “needs to be held accountable.”

“Trump was held accountable for some of his mistakes. Biden needs to be held accountable,” Graham said. “[Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro] Mayorkas needs to either change policy, resign, be replaced by somebody that knows what the hell they’re doing. Clearly he does not understand how to fix this border.”

Graham visited the U.S.-Mexico border at Yuma, Arizona, last week and spoke with reporters about his trip Monday, saying he worries terrorist groups could take advantage of the situation there, where he said border patrol agents are overwhelmed by the number of people coming to the country, seeking asylum.

“This is a 9/11 in the making. … I’ve never seen a more ripe opportunity to get hit again than I do right now, and I’m urging the Biden administration not only to embrace the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy of Trump but to do something about the border writ large. Finish the wall,” Graham said.

The Homeland Security secretary is scheduled to testify Thursday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Graham is a member, as part of a hearing on Department of Homeland Security oversight.

The hearing will come about two months after the Supreme Court upheld a federal judge’s ruling to reinstate the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy that required migrants to stay in Mexico as they awaited asylum hearings.

“The question for me: Is the Biden administration going to embrace ‘Remain in Mexico’ because this is a good policy, or are they going to reluctantly go back to it because a federal judge told them so? This is what I want to hear from Mayorkas on Thursday,” Graham said.

President Biden has said his administration ended the practice because of challenges immigrants faced as they waited for their hearings, including violence.

Meanwhile, Democratic leaders in Congress have said they are looking to have the trillion-dollar bipartisan infrastructure bill on Biden’s desk by the end of this month after the bill has awaited a vote in the House for weeks.

Graham was one of 19 Republicans who supported the bill when it passed the Senate in August.

“I wish they would pass something that would help our roads and bridges and ports. Electric cars are going to be the norm down the road. I’d like to accelerate the ability to put electric cars on the road,” he said. “That bill is being held, hostage. Bernie Sanders has said openly, no bipartisan bill until the $3.5, $5 trillion socialist package is passed.”

Some House Democrats have said they will not support the infrastructure bill in the House until the more expensive economic package backed by Biden, called the “Build Back Better” bill, is passed as well.

Democrats will likely need to pass the larger bill on their own through the reconciliation process, as it lacks Republican backing, but they have not come to an agreement on what will be included in it and what will be left out, with a price tag reported to be around $3.5 trillion.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that they are encouraged by negotiations right now.

“The President is certainly feeling an urgency to move things forward, to get things done. I think you’ve seen that urgency echoed by members on the hill who agree that time is not unending here, and we are eager to move forward with the unified path to deliver for the American people,” she said.

Congress also faces another key deadline in December, when members will again have to raise the debt ceiling to pay the government’s bills or risk the country defaulting on its debt for the first time in modern history.

While some Senate Republicans voted with Democrats to temporarily raise the debt ceiling earlier this month — Graham not among them — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed Democrats will have to do it by themselves next time through reconciliation, without support from their colleagues across the aisle.

“The Republican Senate needs to stand up and be counted in December,” Graham said. “We need not help out our Democratic colleagues raise the debt ceiling because they’re using reconciliation to spend the money. They need to use reconciliation to pay for the bill that comes due, and let’s take that to the ballot box in 2022.”

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