Politico: Biden buyer remorse on Becerra, or vice versa?

(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Let’s play that fun Beltway game that’s sweeping the nation — er, or should be. It’s called Guess The Leaker, and Politico’s big lead on Xavier Becerra’s relationship with the White House is a perfect game board. Adam Cancryn reports from two anonymous sources that strains have appeared over Becerra’s sudden conservative turn on immigration. Is this a warning shot from the West Wing, or an attempt to burnish Becerra from inside DHS?

Xavier Becerra spent decades urging congressional leaders to support liberalized legal immigration. But he’s sounding a different note as Health secretary, responsible for caring for upwards of 21,000 migrant children.

Becerra has argued for maintaining the historically low Trump-era cap on refugee admissions to the U.S., according to two people with knowledge of the matter, for fear of stretching the already-thin resources of his department’s refugee office.

His insistence on a more cautious approach to immigration policy has, moreover, contributed to his shaky standing with some quarters of a fast-paced White House where senior aides have spent weeks pressing the Health department to speed its intake of thousands of children at the southern border, and bristled at what friends and skeptics alike described as Becerra’s at times deliberate manner.

Sounds like it could be either, at least so far. It might even be a White House attempt to hang the refugee-cap disaster with progressives around Becerra’s neck. But wait! Don’t place your bets until you read a bit further:

Becerra in the meantime has been privately frustrated by the White House’s rush to ease a series of immigration guardrails well before he was confirmed to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, allies said, including a key decision to allow unaccompanied immigrant children to remain in the country.

The moves contributed to the already-growing buildup at the southern border, and have since saddled Becerra with managing the fallout from a record influx of asylum seekers.

So … West Wing or HHS? The smart money would go on both. This has the look of an administration whose members are trying desperately to shift blame for a massive failure. Politico insists that the situation is improving on the ground, but Texas Democrat Henry Cuellar has accused the White House and Homeland Security of playing a “shell game” with facilities and children.

On that score, it’s easy to choose whom to believe. The White House is still restricting reporters’ access to these facilities, and even the limited access they do grant exclude image-taking. Cuellar’s going on the record with his criticisms, while the finger-pointing in this article in both directions is entirely anonymous.

All sides try shifting the blame to Trump, but that explanation doesn’t cut it. The massive surge came on Biden’s watch, largely due to Biden’s rhetoric about policy changes on the border, which Cuellar and other Texas Democrats warned would lead to disaster. Now that it has, the leaks are ramping up faster than the Biden administration’s attempts to deal with the catastrophe of its own making.