Senate GOP blocks border deal; future of Ukraine, Israel aid unclear


The Senate rejected a sweeping national security and border reform package Wednesday, after most Senate Republicans banded together with a handful of Democrats to reject legislation their leaders helped negotiate.

The bill included more than $60 billion in aid to Ukraine to fight a Russian invasion and $14 billion to Israel in its war in Gaza, and has long been a top national security priority for President Biden.

Senators will now take another vote on national security aid – which also includes billions for Indo-Pacific allies and $10 billion in humanitarian aid for Gaza, Ukraine and other countries. other countries – without border reforms. The legislation appeared to have growing support to overcome a procedural hurdle, but Republican senators emerged from the afternoon meeting with less optimism about its future.

“We just hope they can come to a yes vote on something,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday.

Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Feb. 7 that the Senate would vote on funding for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan if the border deal was blocked. (Video: The Washington Post)

The vote caps an unusual week for the Senate after Republicans, who have said they won't help U.S. allies until they deal with the surge of migrants at the U.S. border, quickly criticized the agreement they had demanded a few hours after its publication. Trump, who made the border a central theme of his campaign, has criticized and misrepresented the bill, arguing that only his re-election as president can fix the border, contributing to the rapid collapse of his support. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) also made clear that the bill would not receive a vote in his chamber.

In an angry speech before the vote, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), the lead GOP negotiator for the bill, said he was disappointed that some of his colleagues had decided not to try to resolve the crisis border simply because it is a problem. presidential election year. Lankford also said he was threatened by a “popular commentator” who told him, “If you try to propose a bill that solves the border crisis during this presidential year, I will do everything I can to destroy you . »

The $118 billion bill includes sweeping changes to the country's asylum system and a mechanism to effectively close the border to most migrants when crossings are particularly high. It was backed by the staunchly conservative Border Patrol Agents' Union and criticized by refugee rights groups, including Amnesty International USA, as containing “the most extreme anti-immigration proposals this country has seen in 100 years.” “.

But a growing number of Republicans on Capitol Hill have called the legislation too soft.

Johnson and his leadership team — who initially demanded that border reforms passed by the House be tied to funding for Ukraine — outlined their grievances in a joint statement, saying the legislation “fails” to secure the border and would encourage more illegal immigration.

“Any consideration of this Senate bill in its current form is a waste of time,” they wrote. “It’s DEAD on arrival in the House. We encourage the U.S. Senate to reject it.

Johnson did not say how he would handle the additional bill without the border provisions. “We will see what the Senate does,” he told reporters.

Trump also criticized the bill's lead negotiator by ridiculing the final product.

“It's a very bad bill for his career,” Trump said of Lankford, who is among the conference's most conservative members, in an interview Monday with radio host Dan Bongino.

The incident was embarrassing for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), whose staff helped negotiate the bill, given that only three Senate Republicans publicly supported the deal. McConnell, the longest-serving party leader in the Senate, has made support for Ukraine and the United States' commitment to NATO a central issue. But he struggled to find a way to get his conference votes given the issue's unpopularity among the rank and file and Johnson's insistence that he would not pass it without strict reforms borders.

On February 6, just days after the bipartisan border bill was released, lawmakers were baffled by its failure. (Video: Rhonda Colvin/The Washington Post)

A number of Republican senators will travel to the Munich Security Conference next week, where the fate of Ukraine will be a priority.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and several other Republicans said Tuesday they plan to vote in favor of the supplemental national security bill after the border bill failed. “Now I think we need to move on to Ukraine, Israel and continue to govern,” he said.

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said he believes “funding of Ukraine has broad support in this chamber.”



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