Senators on Sunday unveiled a highly anticipated $118 billion package that pairs border enforcement policy with wartime aid to Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies, calling the bill a long-term move to overcome heavy skepticism from Republicans, including House Speaker Mike Johnson. They started the effort.
The offer may be President Joe Biden’s best chance to replenish wartime aid to Ukraine; This is a key foreign policy goal shared by both Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, and Sen. Mitch McConnell, the top Republican. The Senate was expected to hold a key test vote on the legislation this week, but the Senate faces opposition from conservatives.
The United States halted shipments of munitions and missiles to Kiev after Congress stalled on approving $60 billion in aid to Ukraine, leaving Ukrainian soldiers outgunned as they tried to repel Russia’s invasion.
Biden said in a statement that the Senate proposal “allows the United States, along with partners around the world, to continue our vital work to defend Ukraine’s freedom and bolster its ability to defend itself against Russian aggression.”
At the border, Biden said the immigration system has been broken for too long and it’s time to fix it. “It will make our country safer, it will make our borders more secure, it will treat people fairly and humanely while protecting legal immigration, consistent with our values as a nation,” Biden said.
The new bill would also invest in the U.S. defense industry, send $14 billion in military aid to Israel, direct nearly $5 billion to allies in the Asia-Pacific, and provide humanitarian aid to civilians caught in conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza.
In a call with reporters after releasing the legislation, Schumer said he had never worked so closely with McConnell. He called the bill a “tremendous step” towards strengthening national security at home and abroad.
Schumer said he believes that without Ukrainian help, Russian President Vladimir Putin could “overtake Ukraine and even Eastern Europe.”
McConnell said in a statement that the Senate must be “ready to act.”
“America’s sovereignty is being tested here at home, and our credibility is being tested by brave adversaries around the world,” McConnell said. “The challenges we face will not resolve themselves, and our enemies will not wait for America to muster the resolve to confront them.”
McConnell insisted last year that border policy changes be included in the national security funding package in an effort to overcome opposition from House Republicans. In addition to overhauling the asylum system at the border with faster and tougher enforcement, the bill would give presidents new powers to immediately deport immigrants if authorities are overwhelmed by the number of people seeking asylum.
However, due to the change in immigration during the election year, Biden and many Democrats embraced the idea of tightly controlling the borders, while Donald Trump and his allies criticized the proposed measures as insufficient.
Republicans have also been reluctant to claim a political victory on an issue they see as one of Biden’s biggest weaknesses. They argued that presidents already have sufficient authority to prevent illegal border crossings; It’s a stance that will ensure that immigration remains a major issue in the presidential election. But at the same time, House Republicans have pushed for their own stricter version of the border security legislation.
Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he tried to involve House Republicans directly in Senate negotiations but was rebuffed. He added that he was not aware of the details of the bill, but thought the solution to border problems should be Parliament’s proposal for strict immigration measures.
“We’re saying you have to stop this flow,” Johnson said. He also made clear that if the bill passes the Senate, he, not Trump, will decide whether to bring it to the agenda.
But in another sign that Johnson is resisting the Senate package, he noted that the House of Representatives on Saturday will vote on a separate package that includes $17.6 billion in military aid to Israel; this allows House Republicans to show support for Israel outside the Senate. to agree.
It is not yet clear whether the bill will pass the Senate. Senate Republicans were divided on the bill; Many in McConnell’s ranks argue the bill is not strong enough. Some said they would vote against it.
“I will not support this agreement,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said after the legislation was released. The Senate should take up the House bill, she said.
Still, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, the independent 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.”
The border proposal, which took months to negotiate, aims to take control of the asylum system, which is overwhelmed by the historic number of immigrants arriving at the border. The bill proposes to overhaul the system with tougher and faster enforcement measures.
If the number of illegal border crossings rises above 5,000 per day on a five-day average, the deportation authority will automatically step in, thus sending migrants back to Mexico without the opportunity to seek asylum. If the number reaches 4,000, presidential administrations will have the option of exercising export authority.
Citing the authority, Biden said he would use it to “close the borders” once the bill is signed into law.
White House spokesman Andrew Bates said Sunday that Johnson “continues to tie himself in knots to delay border security, delay important investments in the fight against fentanyl, and delay Border Patrol hiring.” We oppose the bipartisan border agreement because of former President Donald Trump.”
At the state level, Republican governors have considered sending National Guard troops to the border. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who on Sunday also led a group of more than a dozen GOP governors to the southern border near Eagle Pass, was applauded by those in his party for his extraordinary showdown with the Biden administration over immigration enforcement.
The bill would allocate $20 billion for immigration enforcement, including hiring thousands of new officers as well as hundreds of Border Patrol agents to evaluate asylum claims. Some of that money will go to shelters and services in cities across the U.S. that have struggled to keep up with the influx of immigrants in recent months.
Migrants seeking asylum, which provides protection to people facing persecution in their home countries, will face a tougher and faster process in having their claims evaluated. The standard for initial interviews, known as credible fear screenings, will be raised and most people will receive them within days of arriving at the border. Final decisions on asylum claims will be made within months, rather than waiting for years, as is often the case now.
Among Democrats, stricter asylum standards have raised concerns, especially from progressive and Hispanic lawmakers. While wings of both parties have openly criticized the policies being discussed, many have refrained from making a final decision until they review the text of the bill, which is a closely guarded secret.
The $14 billion in the package for military support to Israel could also split the Democratic votes. Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is trying to unpack $10 billion for offensive weapons for Israel while setting aside money for defense systems.
House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” that he would be supportive if the issue came to the House.
“It shouldn’t be dead on arrival,” he said. “We are in a period where the government is divided. “That means we need to try to find bipartisan common ground.”