Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford claimed Wednesday that conservative media was out to “destroy” him over a compromise deal with Democrats to keep the border open to 5,000 migrants per day.
Speaking on the Senate floor moments before the upper chamber rejected the deal, Lankford said a “popular commentator four weeks ago” told the Oklahoma lawmaker, “if you try to move a bill that solves the border crisis during this presidential year, I will do whatever I can to destroy you, because I do not want you to solve this during the presidential election.”
“By the way, they have been faithful to their promise and have done everything they can to destroy me in the past several weeks,” Lankford added.
Conservative talk show host Jesse Kelly claimed ownership of the comments on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“In case you’re wondering, he’s talking about me,” Kelly wrote on X.
Kelly posted a clip from several weeks ago pledging to “destroy” Lankford’s “entire professional life” over ongoing negotiations for the border bill. Speaking not in a private conversation but to his thousands of viewers, Kelly called on Oklahoma voters to make an example out of the two-term senator over plans to offer an entryway for millions of illegal migrants with Democrats. In January, Lankford was formally censured by his home state’s Republican Party over the betrayal of voters’ priorities.
While Lankford took the blame for the politically toxic proposal unveiled Sunday, which offered more than three times the funding for Ukraine than the southern border combined with asylum for all, the deal was put together by GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
“He didn’t just bless the deal. He wrote the deal,” said Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, the Democrats’ lead negotiator for the bill. McConnell’s team “were in the room every single day.”
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who was one of 10 Senate Republicans to oppose McConnell’s re-election to leadership, called on the Kentucky lawmaker to step down from his perch on top of the Republican conference Tuesday.
“I think a Republican leader should actually lead this conference and should advance the priorities of Republicans,” Cruz said alongside Florida Sen. Rick Scott, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, Ohio Sen. JD Vance, Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall, and Missouri Sen. Eric Schmitt.
Lankford survived a 2022 primary challenge and is not up for re-election until 2028.
In the House, the narrow Republican majority failed two articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over the years-long border crisis on Tuesday. Colorado Rep. Ken Buck, Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher, and California Rep. Tom McClintock joined Democrats to block the two articles of impeachment for “Willful and Systemic Refusal to Comply With the Law” and “Breach of the Public Trust.” House Republicans may try again next week.