Senate approves $118 billion bill pairing aid for Ukraine and Israel with border fund : NPR


Senate negotiators have reached agreement on a $118 billion bill to pair funding for the U.S. border with Mexico with security aid for Israel and Ukraine. The bill faces major challenges in the House.



LEILA FADEL, HOST:

After months of negotiations, a bipartisan trio of Senate negotiators released a $118 billion bill intended to ensure national security at home and abroad.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The 370-page bill changes immigration laws to reduce the record number of migrants at the U.S. border with Mexico. It also includes money for two key warring allies, Israel and Ukraine. But House Speaker Mike Johnson already declared the bill dead upon arriving in the House.

FADEL: NPR Congressional Correspondent Deirdre Walsh joins us now to talk about the details. Hello, Deirdre.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Hello.

FADEL: So what's in the deal?

WALSH: Well, this bill makes some pretty significant changes to border policies. This is not a comprehensive immigration bill. It's primarily focused on containing and managing the record numbers of migrants we've seen crossing the southwest border in recent months. There is a new requirement for the president. It would be mandated to effectively close much of the southwest border to any new asylum applications once the number of migrants approaching the border reaches 5,000 people or migrants on average per day during the week.

This proposal makes it more difficult for people to apply for asylum. This speeds up the process for those going through the system. But it also includes something that governors and mayors of cities like New York and Denver have really pushed for, work permits for those entering the United States. He has about $20 billion to implement these new security law changes. Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy spoke about the primary goal during a call with reporters last night.

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CHRIS MURPHY: The bill reforms the asylum approval process and system so that applications are heard within six months, not 10 years, as is often the case today.

FADEL: And what about the money for Ukraine and Israel?

WALSH: That's right, this bill provides about $60 billion for Ukraine. That's what President Biden called for last year. Republicans have insisted that any new money going to Ukraine must be tied to border security. There is also about $14 billion in security aid to Israel and $10 billion for humanitarian aid to civilians affected by the two wars.

FADEL: OK, so the big question is: Does this have enough bipartisan support to move forward in the Senate?

WALSH: It's not clear at the moment. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is holding a test vote this Wednesday. But in the hours since the bill was introduced last night, there has been plenty of criticism, both from the left and the right. Some outside immigration advocates say some of the proposals to speed up asylum are positive, but they oppose this mandatory trigger to close much of the border. A series of Republican senators have already said they will vote no. Some progressives said the bill was too punitive. They need 60 votes to advance this bill in the Senate.

FADEL: Well, on top of all that, it's an election year.

WALSH: That's true.

FADEL: It's rare for major bills on policies as complicated as immigration to pass. What are the prospects?

WALSH: Not great. I mean, President Biden said last night, bring this bill to his desk and he will sign it. We've seen recent polls show that Biden's handling of the border is really a weak point politically for him, and he's increasingly leaning toward much stricter border policies. But former President Trump, the likely Republican nominee for 2024, really wants to wield this issue against the president. He urged Republicans to derail the bill. House Speaker Mike Johnson declared him dead on arrival.

FADEL: NPR's Deirdre Walsh. Thanks Deirdre.

WALSH: Thank you.

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