Jeffries criticizes House Republicans for dismissing border deal before it's released

Speaker Mike Johnson has suggested the agreement may not be strict enough.

February 4, 2024, 1:07 PM

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries on Sunday criticized Republican colleagues who have come out against a pending bipartisan deal in the Senate to tie foreign military aid to an overhaul of immigration policy.

In an interview with ABC News "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos, Jeffries also said that a stand-alone Israel military aid bill proposed by Speaker Mike Johnson, as an alternative to the Senate agreement, isn't "comprehensive" enough "to address the national security priorities of the American people."

"We've got to support Israel's ability to defend itself against Hamas and to defeat Hamas. We also need to make sure that we're doing everything possible to bring the hostages home, including American citizens, and to be able to surge humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians who are in harm's way in Gaza through no fault of their own," Jeffries told Stephanopoulos.

"Beyond that, we also have to address the national security priorities of the American people in other parts of the world," Jeffries said.

"The legislation being put forth by House Republicans does none of that," he said.

"The responsible approach is a comprehensive one to address America's national security priorities," he continued.

That includes "supporting our NATO allies, stopping Russian aggression, which is necessary -- and Ukraine has done a very good job showing incredible resilience against a brutal Russian attack, we can't abandon that. And we also, of course, have to work on the challenges related to our broken immigration system," he said.

But, Jeffries said, funding legislation should not include conditions on military support for Israel, which is something that some progressive Democrats have called for in light of Israel's ongoing bombardment of Gaza as it targets Hamas fighters.

More than 27,000 people have died, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.

"Israel has a right to defend itself and also, of course, a responsibility to conduct its war in a manner consistent with the international rules of conflict," Jeffries said Sunday. "We shouldn't put conditions on the ability of any of our allies to defend themselves, particularly against a brutal terrorist regime like Hamas."

Jeffries told Stephanopoulos that the the Senate's military funding and immigration package could be available "as early as later on this afternoon, if not tomorrow."

"We'll see what emerges," he said.

Johnson has criticized the reported details of that pending deal and called it "dead on arrival" if the final text is what has already been described in the press.

The speaker said last week that the Senate's bill must include key parts of a strict border proposal that House Republicans have already passed.

"The devil is in the details. We'll check it out. I'm not prejudging anything," Johnson on Friday. Some other GOP lawmakers have directly dismissed the deal.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries speaks at his weekly press conference in the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 1, 2024.

On "This Week," Jeffries pushed back on Johnson's skepticism and said, "How can a bill be dead on arrival and extreme MAGA Republicans in the House haven't even seen the text? They don't even know what solutions are being proposed in terms of addressing the challenges at the border."

"We need more common sense in Washington, D.C., less conflict and less chaos," Jeffries said. "We're in a period of divided government. That means we should be trying to find bipartisan common ground."

He jabbed at House Republicans as "wholly owned subsidiaries of Donald Trump," a criticism that Johnson has rejected.

Ahead of an imminent vote to approve articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Jeffries maintained that such a move would be purely political because there is no evidence of a crime.

"What does impeaching Secretary Mayorkas have to do with fixing the challenges at the border? The answer is absolutely nothing," he said.

In the aftermath of President Joe Biden's victory in the South Carolina Democratic primary on Saturday, Jeffries was asked about Biden's continued streak of poor polling, including against Trump.

Stephanopoulos pressed Jeffries on what he feels Biden should do to close the gap in support.

"That was a tremendous victory in South Carolina, a decisive one. And I think it demonstrates that as we enter into the campaign season, the American people are beginning to focus on President Biden's incredible track record of results," Jeffries said.

He added, "Yes, more needs to be done in terms of addressing affordability and the inflationary pressures, and President Biden has a vision to do that."

ABC News' Lauren Peller contributed to this report.