Joe Biden's zeal to create humane immigration laws may have misfired as GAO probes his move to halt Mexico wall
The president's move to halt construction of the US-Mexico border wall as touted by Trump has come under legal scanner, boosting the Republicans to sharpen their attacks
As the president of the US, Joe Biden had plans about restoring America’s humanitarian face by undoing his predecessor Donald Trump’s hard immigration policies. The Democratic leader, likewise, started reversing Trump’s policies on the very first day in office. However, he soon saw his plans start misfiring as a humanitarian crisis started brewing at the border, thanks to endless waves of migrants thronging the southern border hoping they would get an entry into the American territory under a less strict commander-in-chief.
Besides facing a backlash over treatment of unaccompanied children at the border and other issues like allowing smugglers having a gala time and people with dubious records and coronavirus infection into the US amid the chaos, President Biden has also met legal challenges. On his very first day in office, the 78-year-old leader put a pause on billions of dollars that were set to be spent on Trump’s long-touted border wall with Mexico. “Like every nation, the United States has a right and a duty to secure its borders and protect its people against threats. But building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution,” Biden said in his order, adding: “It is a waste of money that diverts attention from genuine threats to our homeland security.”
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The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has subsequently launched a review to determine whether Biden breached the law by freezing the funds. Politico published a report on Tuesday, March 23, saying: “Now the Government Accountability Office is launching a review to determine whether the new president broke the law by freezing the money in violation of budget rules designed to keep Congress in control of the cash flow, the federal watchdog confirmed this week.”
If the GAO comes up with a verdict that goes against Biden, it would give the GOP a political advantage. It would brand Biden as someone who breaks the rule as the Republican opponents are already blaming the incumbent president saying it has compromised national security at the southern border. The pause on the wall-building funds “directly contributed” to the flood of migrants at the border, Senate GOP members said in their plea made last week seeking GAO’s opinion.
More than 70 GOP members of the House also followed suit earlier this week by seeking to know the GAO’s opinion, which it provides whenever a member of the Congress wants. The Republicans have also cited Biden’s long history as a senator saying he should know the rule better after having served in the Senate for more than three decades. Missouri GOP Senator Roy Blunt, who is also the chair of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, said in an interview: “He (Biden) was in the Congress a long time. He knows it’s the Congress’ job to authorize how the money is spent and the president's job to spend it efficiently.”
Biden unlikely to face formal punishment
The Politico, however, added that Biden is unlikely to face a formal punishment even if GAO’s decision goes against him, particularly something like the first impeachment that Trump underwent in 2019. The White House has also backed Biden saying his hold is distinct in many ways from his predecessor’s move to lock up foreign assistance, something which GAO considered not right in January 2020.
The conservatives were in no mood to spare Biden though. A March 23 report from The National Interest said: “On his first day in office, President Joe Biden might have done worse than just create a crisis that has consumed the early months of his presidency. According to forty Senate Republicans, he allegedly broke the law by unilaterally halting construction of a southern border wall.” It added: “The dreaded I-word in this case is impoundment, but the precedent set by the first impeachment of President Donald Trump seemingly raises the stakes of violating the Impoundment Control Act (ICA).”
The report also said that 40 Republicans requested Gene Dodaro, comptroller general and the chief of the GAO in a letter on March 17 to prove whether Biden violated the ICA, a 1974 law which reins in the executive prerogatives on congressionally appropriated spending. Those who signed the letter included the likes of Mitch McConnell, the GOP leader in the Senate, conservative Republican Rand Paul and his moderate colleague Susan Collins.
Over 60 Republican House members and four GOP senators also wrote to GAO on March 23 as "co-requesters". “We are writing to be added as co-requesters of a March 17, 2021 letter, signed by 40 United States Senators, requesting the Government Accountability Office’s legal opinion on the actions of the Biden Administration to suspend border wall construction and to order a freeze of funds provided by Congress for that purpose, which we believe violated the Impoundment Control Act,” they said in their letter to the GAO.
The Epoch Times, another far-right media outlet, cited a GAO spokesperson telling on Wednesday: “Yes, we received a congressional request for a legal opinion on the matter and we have accepted that request.” However, the exact nature of the investigation conducted by the GAO was not disclosed.
While the Republicans have slammed Biden’s immigration orders, including his plan to provide citizenship to 11 million illegal immigrants staying in the US, saying they have caused the surge in the number of migrants, the Biden White House has defended itself saying the previous administration left a broken immigration system for Biden which he is trying to fix.