In the midst of apparent internal discord within the Oklahoma Republican Party, a resolution was passed over the weekend formally condemning Sen. James Lankford (R-OK). Lankford has drawn the displeasure of Donald Trump supporters due to his involvement in the bipartisan immigration bill, a measure that Trump had urged congressional Republicans to reject.
The Oklahoma GOP appears to be grappling with larger tensions, leading some current and former members to question the legitimacy of the condemnation vote. The resolution accused Lankford of “playing fast and loose with Democrats” on border policy, a move deemed contradictory to the state party’s platform.
Regardless of the legitimacy of the condemnation, this action suggests that GOP activists are aligning with Trump’s stance, and repercussions may be in store for any Republican challenging the former president’s efforts to derail the legislation.
In a recent report by my colleague Kate Riga, it was highlighted that Trump has been communicating with House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and other congressional Republicans, asserting that the border deal is undesirable and should be abandoned.
Trump’s opposition to the bill is not based on a review of its language but on his strategic considerations. Resolving the border “crisis” now could leave Republicans with one less campaign talking point in a presidential cycle where a clear policy platform is lacking.
Trump has openly criticized the bill, branding it a “gift” to Democrats during an election year. At a Las Vegas rally over the weekend, he reiterated his stance, expressing willingness to accept blame for thwarting the bill despite months of bipartisan negotiations and its intended coupling with aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.
“As the leader of our party, there is zero chance I will support this horrible open borders betrayal of America,” Trump declared. “I’ll fight it all the way. A lot of the senators are trying to say, respectfully, they’re blaming it on me. I say, that’s okay. Please blame it on me. Please.”
In response to the condemnation from his state party, Lankford appeared on “Fox News Sunday” to defend the bill and the collaborative efforts of Republican and Democratic senators. He criticized fellow Republicans for succumbing to Trump’s political pressure and characterized their stance as a mere campaign tactic.
“So we actually locked arms together and said we’re not going to give you money for this. We want a change in law,” Lankford explained. “When we’re finally going to the end, they’re like, ‘Oh, just kidding. I actually don’t want a change in law because it’s a presidential election year.’ We all have an oath to the Constitution and a commitment to say we’re going to do whatever we can to secure the border.”
This unfolding situation underscores a point Democrats emphasized last week: Republicans, led by Trump’s strategic maneuvering, view a “crisis” at the border as beneficial during an election year, potentially disregarding genuine efforts to address the issue. Trump, in his characteristic manner, is unreservedly revealing this strategy.