Border and Ukraine aid deal collapses despite Biden’s plea to Congress to ‘show some backbone’

(Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

Border and Ukraine aid deal collapses despite Biden’s plea to Congress to ‘show some backbone’

Immigration and the border, Ukraine


February 6, 2024

A Senate deal on border enforcement measures and aid to Ukraine suffered a quick and total collapse on Tuesday as Republicans withdrew their support, even as President Biden urged Congress to show some backbone and stand up to Donald Trump.

Just minutes after the Democratic president’s remarks at the White House, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell emerged from a Republican lunch at the Capitol and acknowledged that the deal was dead.

It seems to me and most of our members that we have no real chance of making a law here, the Kentucky Republican told reporters.

The split-screen moments in Washington represented a quick turn in events that showed McConnell’s weakening control of his GOP conference, Trump’s growing influence and Biden’s ability to merely oversee a cornerstone of his foreign policy policy, which crumbled Russian President Vladimir Putin’s advance into Europe. in Congress.

Biden had spent months consulting with Senate leaders on a carefully negotiated plan to link policies aimed at curbing illegal crossings on the U.S.-Mexico border with $60 billion in war aid to Ukraine. The bill was intended to demonstrate American strength around the world and would also have sent tens of billions of dollars more to Israel, other US allies in Asia, the US immigration system and humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza and Ukraine.

But after Republicans rejected the compromise, presidential and Senate leaders are now left stranded without a clear way to advance aid to Ukraine through Congress. They have run into a wall of opposition from conservatives led by Trump, who dismiss the border proposal as inadequate and criticize Ukraine’s financing as wasteful.

Biden placed the blame for the bill’s demise squarely on Trump, his likely Republican opponent in November’s presidential election.

He has done nothing in the last 24 hours, I’m told, but contact Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate, threaten them and try to intimidate them into voting against this proposal, Biden said. ‘It looks like they’re giving in. Frankly, they owe it to the American people to show some backbone and do what they know is right.

Democrats in the Capitol expressed their frustration to their colleagues when it became clear that the deal had been completed.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer called Tuesday a gloomy day here in the United States Senate during a speech in which he blasted Republicans for backing away from the deal. He still challenged them to vote against border security, an issue they have long championed.

After months of good-faith negotiations, after months in which Republicans got many of the things they asked for, Leader McConnell and the Republican conference are prepared to kill the additional national security package, even with border provisions they so fervently to ask, the New York Democrat said.

After McConnell pushed for border policy changes to be included in the package last year, the White House worked with senators for months on a compromise. They hoped it would generate Republican votes for support for Ukraine in the House of Representatives, where dozens of Republican lawmakers have spoken out against financing Kiev’s fight against Russia.

The Pentagon has run out of money and stopped sending arms shipments to Kiev just as the war, now entering its third year, reaches a critical juncture. Ukraine is struggling with ammunition and personnel shortages, while Russia is on the offensive and carrying out brutal attacks.

Every week, every month that passes without new aid to Ukraine means fewer artillery shells, fewer air defense systems and fewer resources for Ukraine to defend itself against this Russian attack, Biden said. Exactly what Putin wants.

Senators have been looking for a way to get funding for Ukraine through the Republican-controlled House. And after the border compromise collapsed Tuesday, some suggested jettisoning that part of the package and boosting aid to U.S. allies on its own.

But that idea also faces resistance in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives


Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) is under pressure from hardline conservatives not to bring any Ukrainian financing to a vote.

Asked Tuesday about war aid to Ukraine and Israel, he told reporters: We must address these measures and these issues independently and separately.

The House of Representatives was set to vote on a $17.6 billion military aid package for Israel, but hardline conservatives have voiced opposition because the funding would not be offset by cuts in other areas. Democrats also largely opposed the bill because it undermined the push for a comprehensive package that would include Ukraine and other allies in Asia.

The lack of an agreement on national security will play a major role in Biden’s meeting Friday with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Biden plans to emphasize to Scholz that he remains committed to providing Ukraine with the funding it needs to continue repelling the nearly two-year-old Russian invasion.

McConnell said in an earlier speech that it was essential to assert American strength in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, but also blamed Biden for not responding sooner to threats from rival powers.

Either we meet the challenges we face with a clear strategy and a robust solution, or we lose, McConnell said.

But the longtime Republican leader has failed to convince his conference to embrace the border security compromises after Trump denounced them.

Within hours of the bill’s release Sunday, Johnson said he would not support it, and even Republican senators who had supported the border policy under discussion came out against the bill on Tuesday.

The politics of this was a big factor, said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).

When the speaker said the Senate bill is essentially dead on arrival. And then President Trump steps in and discourages Republicans from voting for it.

The border proposal was one of the most conservative and comprehensive in decades to emerge from bipartisan negotiations in Congress. It would try to reduce the historic number of illegal border crossings by making the asylum procedure more difficult and faster. Presidential governments would also be given the power to deny migrants from seeking asylum at the border if the number of migrants seeking asylum in a given period becomes unmanageable for authorities.

Biden called the proposal the fairest, humane reforms to our immigration system in a long time, and the toughest set of reforms to secure the border yet.

But Republicans have largely heeded Trump’s wishes to reject the bill


it would show that Biden could take action to address problems at the border, seen as one of his biggest vulnerabilities in his re-election campaign.

Americans will turn to the upcoming elections to end the border crisis, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said in a statement.

But Biden also suggested he would make the Republican rejection of border policy a campaign issue, saying, “I will put this issue before the country and the voters will know that.”


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