Updated Jan 28, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Oklahoma GOP condemns Lankford for bipartisan Senate border talks

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) speaks with reporters after meeting with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at the U.S. Capitol January 16, 2024 in Washington, DC.

Sen. James Lankford. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) on Sunday defended bipartisan border security package negotiations after facing criticism from some fellow Republicans, including former President Trump.

The big picture: Oklahoma Republican Party vice chair Wayne Hill announced in a statement Saturday that the state GOP had passed a resolution condemning and censuring Lankford over the border talks, threatened to withdraw support for him and accused him of "playing fast and loose with Democrats" on the issue.

  • Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has said if rumors about the details of the Senate's expected border deal are true, it would be "dead on arrival" in the House.
  • Trump has come out strongly against any bipartisan deal on the border. He told supporters at a rally in Nevada Saturday ahead of the state's Feb. 8 caucuses there's "zero chance" he'd "support this horrible open borders betrayal of America ... A lot of the senators are trying to say, respectfully, they're blaming it on me. I say, that's OK. Please blame it on me. Please."

What he's saying: During an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, lead Senate GOP negotiator Lankford noted some people were "functioning off of internet rumors of what's in" the bill's final text that's in the final stages, "and many of them are false."

  • Lankford noted the "internet rumors" during a "Fox News Sunday" interview during which he said the bill "focuses on getting us to zero illegal crossings" per day.
  • "There's no amnesty. It increases a number of Border Patrol agents and it increases asylum officers. It increases detention beds so we can quickly detain and then deport individuals," he told Fox anchor Shannon Bream.
  • "It focuses on additional deportation flights out. It changes our asylum process so that people can get a fast asylum screening at a higher standard and then get returned back to their home country," Lankford added.
  • "This is not about letting 5,000 people in a day. This is the most misunderstood section of this proposal. And let me tell you briefly what it is."

The bottom line: "It is interesting, Republicans, four months ago, would not give funding for Ukraine, for Israel and for our southern border because we demanded changes in policy. So we actually locked arms together and said, 'We're not going to give money for this. We want a change in law,'" Lankford told Bream.

  • "We all have an oath to the Constitution and we have a commitment to say we're going to do whatever we can to be able to secure the border."

Go deeper: Senators zero in on high stakes border deal

Editor's note: This article has been updated with further comment from Sen. James Lankford and more context.

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