Let's get this straight now," Texas Representative Troy Nehls told Rolling Stone on Wednesday. "Congress doesn't have to do anything to secure our southern border." That's right: the GOP is so concerned about the country's border crisis that they are getting ready to do exactly nothing about it. Wielding a cigar, the right-winger insisted that Joe Biden could solve immigration on his own, but "he doesn’t want to fix the border"-he wants to pass a compromise bill to bolster his reelection campaign. "Now, why would I help Joe Biden improve his dismal 33 percent?"

The remarks were a wide-open window into House Republicans’ thinking on the Senate’s border bill-the text of which is expected soon-and into the political dynamics that threaten to kill the proposal and possibly make James Lankford the GOP’s latest intraparty pariah. The Oklahoma senator has been one of the lead negotiators on the forthcoming deal, along with Democrat Chris Murphy and independent Kyrsten Sinema, and has touted the work not only as necessary to easing the recent surge of border crossings, but as the very ransom Republicans had demanded in holding Ukraine aid hostage in exchange for more stringent immigration policies. "We actually locked arms together and said, 'We’re not going to give money for this. We want a change in law,’" Lankford told Fox News Sunday last week. "It’s interesting a few months later," he added, "when we’re finally getting 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.’"

The do-nothing conference is openly seeking to obstruct Biden to help Donald Trump, who has promised to "fight [the bill] all the way." But in trying to do something, Lankford is getting caught in the crossfire-censured by the Oklahoma GOP and facing pushback from colleagues like Ted Cruz, all as Trump hints at coming attacks.

"Who is negotiating this bill?" Trump asked during an appearance in Washington on Wednesday. That was surely a warning from the former president, who has made little secret of his desire to keep the border an open issue in his 2024 campaign and whose allies have dutifully lined up against the compromise. "This deal sucks," Florida Republican Byron Donalds told ABC News. "The president can put a stop to this," Louisiana’s Mike Johnson said Wednesday, in his first floor speech as House Speaker, putting the blame on Biden and Alejandro Mayorkas, the Homeland Security secretary facing articles of impeachment. "If President Biden wants us to believe he’s serious about protecting our national security, he needs to demonstrate good faith and take immediate action to secure that border."

Johnson is one to talk about "good faith." For years, he and Republicans like him have been demanding laws—that is, congressional action, not the executive orders they’re calling on Biden to issue now—to tighten security at the border, as the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake pointed out Wednesday. Even Trump—Mr. Build The Wall himself—claimed as president that the "long term" responsibility for the border rested with Congress. "Democrats must change our immigration laws right now," he said in 2019 when his opponents controlled the lower chamber. Now that there’s a Democrat in the White House, though, the responsibility appears to have shifted.

Part of the GOP’s game of hot potato is due to their own dysfunction; if Johnson were to take any action that upsets Trump and, by extension, any member of his conference, it could mean his job. But it’s also because the mission of the contemporary Republican Party is not to implement policy so much as it is to work to get one man elected. Anything that threatens the latter—whether it’s a tax bill or even what is likely to be a pretty stringent border proposal—is fundamentally in conflict with that purpose. And so what seems to Lankford a chance to enact more conservative immigration policy is, to Republicans like Nehls, nothing more than volunteer work for the Biden reelection campaign. For many in the GOP, accepting the deal would be to extinguish one of their favorite 2024 talking points.

The Oklahoma senator is urging his fellow conservatives to "have a longer look than 10 months from now" when Trump’s authoritarian vision gets tested at the polls. But for the former president and his Capitol Hill confederates, the possibility of a win in November trumps any policy win they can notch now—even if that means "rooting for chaos," as Murphy put it last week. "They want to keep the border in a chaotic situation," the Democratic negotiator said of Trump’s allies, "for political purposes."