A bipartisan bill being touted by GOP supporters as a way to improve border security is being denounced by many others in the party who insist it is instead a thinly veiled strategy to send billions of taxpayer dollars to Ukraine while providing little real relief to an ongoing immigration crisis.
Criticism of the bill extends far beyond Capitol Hill, though, with high-profile figures including Tesla CEO Elon Musk expressing outrage over the provisions included therein.
During a recent CNN interview, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), who has led the Republican side of the negotiations that led to the controversial agreement, was asked about Musk’s concerns that the true goal of the deal is to create a steady stream of new Democratic voters.
“Now I know that Elon Musk is not an expert on illegal immigration or the border, but he has a huge megaphone,” anchor Jake Tapper began. “Explain what he’s talking about here. Is he wrong?”
Before directly addressing the substance of Musk’s statement, Lankford seized the opportunity to slam the billionaire’s company over a recent recall related to the font size of warning lights on many Tesla models.
“I think he needs to go back to doing the 2 million Teslas that are currently being recalled right now to be able to focus in on that,” the Oklahoma Republican responded.
He ultimately did answer Tapper’s question by calling Musk’s claim “absurd” and stressing that “it’s against the law for anyone that is not a citizen of the United States to be able to vote in the United States in any federal election.”
Despite Lankford’s attempts to sell the deal as a net positive for conservatives concerned about the border, he has apparently begun to recognize that the resulting bill would be doomed to failure in the House if not also in his own chamber.
“We have to have amendments,” the senator acknowledged on Tuesday. “There are parts that need to be fixed. This is a negotiated agreement, but we have demanded that there have to be amendments on this bill.”
For his part, GOP presidential primary front-runner Donald Trump predicted that the bill will be “very bad” for Lankford’s career.
“I won in Oklahoma,” the former president said. “I know these people. They’re great people. They’re not going to be happy about this. Nobody’s going to be happy about this, but the people in Oklahoma are, these are serious MAGA, these are serious people.”