Even to those of us living in the Washington swamp, the process of making laws is confusing.

Worst of all is the appropriations process, where the trees are so dense you forget what a forest is. But as the now-deceased Notre Dame fundraiser James Frick said, “Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money, and I’ll tell you what they are.”

In a recent poll of swing-state voters, only 11% said it was more important to continue funding Ukraine than to secure our own border. Americans have already spent up to $113 billion helping Ukraine so far and the Biden administration is demanding $60 billion more now.

However, as Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green, R-Tenn., writes, the Biden administration is asking for less money to protect the U.S. border, despite an unprecedented surge in illegal immigration.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas asked for fewer Border Patrol agents, fentanyl-detecting equipment, and detention beds than he previously argued were needed. To make matters worse, he wants a $4.7 billion “Southwest Border Contingency” slush fund that experience tells us he will spend to process in as many more illegal aliens as possible while he still can.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., is leading the House to pass a huge supplemental foreign-aid package comprising individual funding bills for Israel, Taiwan, and Ukraine, plus a fourth bill with sanctions against Iran and Russia.

The House passed a rule on Friday that means this massive foreign aid package is sure to advance with a simple majority vote, likely to happen quietly over the weekend.

Up until the very last minute, Johnson insisted that “border security remains the top priority for the nation” and promised a vote on a border security bill called the End the Border Catastrophe Act, which closely resembles HR 2 (the Secure the Border Act) that the House passed back in May 2023.

HR 2 would return national policy to deterring, detaining, and deporting illegal immigrants, rather than processing them into the U.S. through parole and mass release.

But sadly, the promise was empty.

Unlike the foreign aid bills, House Republicans are moving the border bill independently under a suspension of the rules, which means it would need two-thirds of the House to pass—a practical impossibility. Republican leaders know this week’s border bill is a dead letter, and the vote is merely for show.   

The security aid package adds up to $8 billion for Taiwan, $26 billion for Israel, and $60 billion for Ukraine. The House bill has meager reforms to address American citizens growing skeptical of sending even more foreign aid. The Ukraine bill makes the $9.5 billion given in nonmilitary aid into a loan repayable on presidential request, though no one seriously expects that to happen.

For those concerned about handing out more unaccountable billions to Ukraine—arguably the most corrupt country in Europe—the bill provides $26 million for oversight.

In the Israel bill, there doesn’t seem to be much oversight over the $5.6 billion for “international disaster assistance,” and $3.4 billion for ‘‘migration and refugee assistance,’’ both “to address humanitarian needs of vulnerable populations and communities.” Where this $9 billion would be spent is unclear.

Responding to concerns that the Israel bill will “send aid to Israel’s enemies in Gaza,” House managers said it would have “stringent oversight” and require the secretary of state to assure Congress that no U.S. funds go to terrorist organizations. Perhaps not directly, but Hamas tightly controls Gaza, and anything given to civilians will inevitably end up, at least in part, in their hands.  

The Ukraine bill prevents U.S. aid from being used to pay pension liabilities for Ukrainian civil servants—a practice the federal government should remember, given the massive unfunded pension liabilities of American states and cities. Most importantly for those skeptical that Ukraine can retake all of its territory lost to Russia so far, the bill requires an “endgame strategy.” When we don’t have those—think Vietnam and Afghanistan—the game tends to go long and end badly.

The American people know we need to secure the border.

The revised version of HR 2 being considered this week would resume construction of the border wall, which President Joe Biden halted immediately when he took office, and invest in border security technology and personnel. The bill curtails the president’s abuse of immigration parole to let in millions of inadmissible aliens, stops illegal immigrants from being able to board planes with only their arrest document, toughens up “credible fear” and asylum standards, and requires the U.S. to restore “Safe Third Country” agreements with Mexico and Central American countries.

Combined, these policies would help turn off the giant magnet attracting illegal immigration under Biden. The bill even reimburses border states up to $9 billion for some of their border-related costs since Biden took office. Texas alone has spent $12 billion so far.

But unlike the $300 million for Ukraine’s Border Guard Service that will likely be approved by Congress, none of this U.S. border security legislation will happen.

With the House in session working on these massive bills, Capitol Hill feels like the Vatican, with the cardinals locked in to pick the new pontiff. But instead of white smoke indicating a new pope, we’re likely to see only the dirty gray smoke of a uniparty funding package that ignores a historic crisis in our own backyard.

By separating American border security from billions in foreign aid, and under different rules, House Republicans have taken off the table the only real leverage they had to secure the border.

Johnson has admitted that “the Democrats run the Senate, the Democrats run the White House, and they want an open border.” It looks like they’re going to get it for at least a while longer.