Monday, July 22, 2024
HomePoliticsTexas Gov. Greg Abbott embraces role as top Biden antagonist on border

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott embraces role as top Biden antagonist on border

AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott was blunt when asked about President Joe Biden’s performance at the State of the Union address.

“I give it an ‘F’ for failure,” he said Friday in an interview at the governor’s mansion. “There’s a number-one issue in America and that’s securing the border. … It’s an issue on which [Biden] has failed, and he waited 40 minutes to even bring it up” in Thursday’s speech, the Texas Republican said.

While recent polls show that the American electorate is increasingly concerned about illegal immigration, Abbott was beating the drum well before that. He’s been a thorn in the side of the Biden administration for years — and has now upped his national profile amid widespread speculation that he’s angling to be former President Donald Trump’s running mate, or perhaps his attorney general if he wins in November.

“My goal is singular — and that is to be the leader of the great state of Texas,” Abbott told NBC News.

Pressed on whether he planned to run for president in 2028, he demurred.

“I am planning on running for re-election as governor in Texas,” he said. “I take one step at a time.”

Abbott is next up for re-election in 2026.

At the moment, he’s defending House Republicans’ decision to kill a bipartisan border security bill — at Trump’s urging — that the president called out during Thursday night’s speech at the Capitol.

“If Joe Biden really believes in compromise,” Abbott said, “he would work with the House chamber.”

Before being elected governor in 2014, Abbott was the longest-serving attorney general in Texas history and was also a justice on the Texas Supreme Court. He was born in Wichita Falls and raised in Duncanville, Texas. Not long after law school, he was paralyzed by a falling tree while jogging.

Now he’s among the people considered most responsible for creating divisions among Democrats over the Biden administration’s immigration policies, in turn pushing them toward the right. His decision to bus migrants to major cities across the country slowly nudged Democratic mayors to break with Biden over the record migrant influx.

The White House has repeatedly called the busing program a “political stunt,” but it’s solidified Abbott’s dominance among the Republican base. Just this week, he and his attorney general, Ken Paxton, presided over a decisive victory in their home state: A slew of Republican candidates they had endorsed toppled many GOP members of the Texas House in a move seen as sheer political revenge. The Republican legislators who lost had crossed the governor on his legislative priority — school vouchers — and had tried to impeach Paxton.

The message was clear: Don’t mess with the Texas governor.

Abbott, 66, is also forging ahead with court battles over buoys in the Rio Grande, razor wire in Eagle Pass, and a new law that would fundamentally alter the relationship between local and federal government over immigration enforcement. The law, which was originally set to take effect Sunday, has been put on hold temporarily by the Supreme Court.

During the legal fight over the statute, a judge who sided with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Justice Department wrote that “surges in immigration do not constitute an ‘invasion.’”

Abbott brushed off that characterization on Friday.

“These are not migrants crossing the border,” he said. “These are people who are coming across a border in violation of federal law.”

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