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Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp sets the stage to aid Texas governor’s border standoff with Biden

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is poised to offer aid to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s effort to control illegal crossings on the U.S.-Mexico border, as fellow Republican Abbott pursues a showdown with the Biden administration over immigration enforcement.

Kemp scheduled an announcement for Tuesday afternoon as both chambers of Georgia’s Republican-led Legislature push through identically worded resolutions condemning President Joe Biden’s border policy and saying they back any effort by Kemp to “allocate resources and assistance to the protection of the southern border.”

The Georgia Senate voted 31-15 for its resolution Monday, and a House committee approved its version Friday.

The sharply partisan resolutions were accompanied by Republican talking points that characterized anyone who crosses the border illegally as a criminal, even those seeking asylum from persecution at home and concluding that many are drug traffickers or potential terrorists. The measures are progressing in an election year not only for president, but for all of Georgia’s 236 legislative seats as well.

Kemp could choose to send more Georgia National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas. Kemp deployed troops there in 2019. Garrison Douglas, a spokesperson for Kemp, said 29 guard members remain deployed performing missions that include aerial surveillance.

Kemp was one of 13 Republican governors who joined Abbott at Eagle Pass, Texas, on Feb. 4. Abbott has been locked in a standoff with the Biden administration after the state began denying access to U.S. Border Patrol agents at a park on on the edge of the Rio Grande in the Texas border town.

Kemp, who has a history of conflict with former President Donald Trump, continues to keep his distance from the Republican frontrunner while backing other Republicans and opposing Biden. But several other Georgia Republicans made clear in debate Monday that what they wanted was a return to Trump’s specific border policies.

“We’re condemning President Biden that he took back and did a reversal in regard to what President Trump passed into law by executive order,” said Sen. Majority Leader Steve Gooch, a Daholonega Republican. “What we’ve said is we want that executive order reinstated.”

Democrats attacked Trump and Republicans during debate for rejecting a border security plan developed in the U.S. Senate by negotiators including Republican U.S. Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma.

“This list of opportunities to secure the border thrown in the trash can by congressional Republicans is long,” said state Sen. Elena Parent, an Atlanta Democrat. “But none of this list compares to the most recent debacle we have witnessed.”

Republicans also made clear that the resolution was an election-year messaging exercise. Georgia senators, in particular, have debated a clutch of partisan measures in recent weeks aimed at pleasing Republicans and riling Democrats.

“We’re not going to pass a bill today that is going to move the needle in a large way,” Gooch said. “What we are going to do today is take a position on this issue.”

Georgia is at least the third Republican-led state where lawmakers in recent weeks have introduced resolutions backing calls to send more National Guard troops to support Abbott, after Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced last month he would send hundreds of additional guard members. The state has sent more than 1,000 guard members, state troopers and other officers to the Texas border since last May, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Georgia Republicans echoed their party’s national claims that Biden needs no help from Congress to control the border and that Democrats had unified control of Congress for Biden’s first two years. Democrats, meanwhile, said they support some increased controls at the border, showing how the issue has shifted, but said Georgia lawmakers have little control over the issue.

“This resolution is politics for politics’ sake,” said Senate Democratic Whip Harold Jones II, of Augusta.

Jeff Amy, The Associated Press