Senators rush to release their package of border policies and aid to Ukraine and Israel

(Andres Leighton/Associated Press)

Senators rush to release their package of border policies and aid to Ukraine and Israel


February 4, 2024

Senators rushed Sunday to release a long-awaited bill that would tie border enforcement policies to war aid to Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies, part of a long-running effort to push the package through heavy skepticism from Republicans, including the chairman of the House. House of Representatives Mike Johnson, to pilot.

The proposal is President Biden’s best chance to supply Ukraine with war aid, a key foreign policy goal shared with


the Senate’s top Democrat, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, and the top Republican, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The Senate was expected to hold a key test vote on the legislation this week, but it has already run into a wall of opposition from conservatives.

With Congress stalled on approving tens of billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine, the US has halted shipments of ammunition and missiles to Kiev, leaving Ukrainian soldiers out of harm’s way as they try to repel the Russian invasion.

In an effort to overcome opposition from Republicans in the House of Representatives, McConnell had pushed last year for border policy changes to be included in the national security funding package. The bill would overhaul the asylum system at the border with faster and stricter enforcement, and give presidents new powers to immediately expel migrants if authorities become overwhelmed by the number of people seeking asylum.

During election years, however, Biden and many Democrats have embraced the idea of ​​strict border enforcement, while Donald Trump and his allies have both criticized the proposed measures as insufficient. They have also argued that presidents already have sufficient authority to restrict illegal border crossings, a position that would ensure immigration remains a top issue in the presidential election.

Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana, said in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday that he had tried to involve House Republicans directly in the Senate negotiations but was rebuffed. He added that he was not aware of the details of the bill, but that the solution to the border problems should be a House proposal with tough immigration measures.

What they said is you have to stop the flow, Johnson said. He also made clear that he, not Trump, would decide whether the bill would be brought to the floor if it were to pass the Senate.

But in a further sign of Johnson’s resistance to the Senate package, he indicated Saturday that the House of Representatives will vote on a separate package of $17.6 billion in military aid for Israel, a move that could allow Republicans in the House of Representatives show their support for Israel, apart from the Senate deal. .

Still, Senator Kyrsten Sinema, an independent from Arizona who negotiated the border proposal, told CBS’ Face the Nation that the legislation would be “realistic, pragmatic and the strongest solution to our border crisis in my lifetime.”

“I am confident that when our bill passes the Senate and reaches the House of Representatives, Members of the House, including Speaker Johnson, will have ample opportunity to read, understand, and ask questions about the bill.” , Sinema said.

The border proposal, negotiated for months, is aimed at gaining control of an asylum system overwhelmed by historic numbers of migrants coming to the border. The bill proposes an overhaul of the system with stricter and faster enforcement measures. If the number of illegal border crossings rises above 5,000 per day for five days, an expulsion authority would automatically intervene, sending migrants back to Mexico without the chance to file an asylum claim. If the number reaches 4,000, presidential administrations would have the option to use deportation authority.

Biden, referring to the authority, has said he would use it to close the border once the bill is signed into law.

White House spokesman Andrew Bates said Sunday that Johnson has continued to tie himself in knots delaying border security, delaying crucial investments in the fight against fentanyl and delaying the hiring of border patrol, while Republican colleagues openly declaring that they only opposed the bipartisan border deal because of former President Donald Trump.

The bill would allocate $18.5 billion to immigration enforcement, including the hiring of thousands of new officers to review asylum claims, as well as hundreds of Border Patrol agents, according to a person briefed on the package who spoke anonymously to discuss the bill. $1.4 billion of that would go to shelters and services in US cities that have struggled to keep up with migrant arrivals in recent months.

Migrants seeking asylum, which provides protection for people facing persecution in their home countries, would face a harder and faster process to have their claims assessed. The standard for initial interviews, known as credible fear assessments, would be increased, with many receiving these interviews within days of arriving at the border. Final decisions on their asylum applications would take place within a few months, instead of the often years-long wait that now takes place.

Among Democrats, the stricter asylum standards have raised concerns, especially among progressives

Spanish Latino

legislators. While wings of both parties have been openly critical of the policies under discussion, many have postponed final judgment until they can review the text of the bill, which is a closely guarded secret in the Capitol.

Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, Hakeem Jeffries

of New York

suggested in an interview on ABC’s This Week that he would support it if it came to the House of Representatives.

“It shouldn’t be dead on arrival,” he said. We need more sanity in Washington, DC, less conflict and less chaos. We were in a period of divided government. That means we must try to find bipartisan common ground.

Senators have finalized the border proposal


Senate appropriators were still negotiating Friday, but other parts of the package, including aid to U.S. allies, investments in defense manufacturing capabilities and humanitarian aid for people caught in conflict in Gaza and Ukraine, were still being negotiated .

However, Senator Lindsey Graham

(RS.C.), a Republican from South Carolina,

suggested during an interview on Fox News Sunday” that Republican senators would push to block the Senate from quickly passing the bill.

We won’t go into this next week, he said. It’s too important.


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