UNITED STATES NEWS

Senators release a $118 billion package that pairs border policies with aid for Ukraine and Israel

Feb 4, 2024, 5:01 PM | Updated: 8:33 pm

Migrants wait in line adjacent to the border fence under the watch of the Texas National Guard to e...

Migrants wait in line adjacent to the border fence under the watch of the Texas National Guard to enter into El Paso, Texas, May 10, 2023. Senators are racing to release a highly-anticipated bill that pairs border enforcement policy with wartime aid for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies, as part of a long-shot effort to push the package through heavy skepticism from Republicans, including House Speaker Mike Johnson. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

(AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senators on Sunday released a highly anticipated $118 billion package that pairs border enforcement policy with wartime aid for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies, but it quickly ran into a wall of opposition from top House Republicans, including Speaker Mike Johnson.

The proposal could be the best chance for President Joe Biden to resupply Ukraine with wartime aid — a major foreign policy goal that is shared with both the Senate’s top Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer, and top Republican, Sen. Mitch McConnell. The Senate was expected this week to hold a key test vote on the legislation, but within hours of the text being released Johnson said on social media that it would be “dead on arrival” if it reaches the House.

With Congress stalled on approving $60 billion in Ukraine aid, the U.S. has halted shipments of ammunition and missiles to Kyiv, leaving Ukrainian soldiers outgunned as they try to beat back Russia’s invasion.

Senators have been working for months on the carefully negotiated compromise intended to overcome opposition from conservatives who have tired of funding Ukraine’s fight. But the coming days will be a crucial test of whether congressional leaders can once again muscle their members to support a package designed to assert American strength — and commitment — around the world.

They will also be weighing whether to continue pressing on one of the most fraught issues in American politics — border and immigration legislation.

Biden said in a statement that the Senate proposal “allows the United States to continue our vital work, together with partners all around the world, to stand up for Ukraine’s freedom and support its ability to defend itself against Russia’s aggression.”

And on the border, Biden said that the immigration system has been broken for too long, and it’s time to fix it. “It will make our country safer, make our border more secure, treat people fairly and humanely while preserving legal immigration, consistent with our values as a nation,” the Democratic president said.

The proposal would overhaul the asylum system with faster and tougher enforcement, as well as give presidents new powers to immediately expel migrants if authorities become overwhelmed with the number of people applying for asylum. The new bill would also invest in U.S. defense manufacturing, send $14 billion in military aid to Israel, steer nearly $5 billion to allies in the Asia-Pacific, and provide humanitarian assistance to civilians caught in conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza.

In a call with reporters after releasing the legislation, Schumer said he has never worked so closely with McConnell. He called the bill a “monumental step” toward strengthening national security at home and abroad.

Without the Ukraine aid, Schumer said, he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin “could be rolling over Ukraine and even into Eastern Europe.”

McConnell said in a statement that the Senate must be “prepared to act.”

“America’s sovereignty is being tested here at home, and our credibility is being tested by emboldened adversaries around the world,” McConnell said. “The challenges we face will not resolve themselves, nor will our adversaries wait for America to muster the resolve to meet them.”

In a bid to overcome opposition from House Republicans, McConnell had insisted last year that border policy changes be included in the national security funding package. However, in an election-year shift on immigration, Biden and many Democrats have embraced the idea of strict border enforcement, while Donald Trump and his allies have criticized the proposed measures as insufficient.

Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, said on social media, “I’ve seen enough. This bill is even worse than we expected, and won’t come close to ending the border catastrophe the President has created.”

Republicans have been reluctant to give Biden a political win on an issue they see as one of his biggest vulnerabilities and argue that presidents already have enough authority to curb illegal border crossings — a stance that would ensure immigration remains a major issue in the presidential election. Yet at the same time, House Republicans have also pushed for their own, stricter version of border security legislation.

That bill, which passed the House last year without a single Democratic vote, currently has no chance of gaining the Democratic support it would need in the Senate. GOP senators also attempted to add it on to other legislation last year, but that effort only gained 46 votes.

Johnson also indicated Saturday that the House will vote on a separate package of $17.6 billion of military aid for Israel — a move that allows House Republicans to show support for Israel apart from the Senate deal.

It is also unclear if the bill will pass in the Senate. Senate Republicans have been divided on the bill, with several in McConnell’s ranks arguing that it isn’t strong enough. Some quickly said they would vote against it.

“The ‘border deal’ is an easy NO. It reads like a parody of an actual border security bill,” Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, posted on social media.

The bipartisan proposal is aimed at gaining control of an asylum system that has been overwhelmed by historic numbers of migrants coming to the border.

Migrants who seek asylum, which provides protection for people facing persecution in their home countries, would face a tougher and faster process to having their claim evaluated. The standard in initial interviews would be raised, and many would receive those interviews within days of arriving at the border.

Final decisions on their asylum claims would happen within months, rather than the often years-long wait that happens now. They would also be given work permits if they pass the initial screenings.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona independent who negotiated the border proposal, told reporters that the legislation would “immediately reassert control of our border, end catch and release policies, and strengthen our broken asylum system, and solve the border crisis.”

“America is and continues to be a bastion of hope for true asylum seekers,” she added. “But it is not an open door for economic migrants. It has been, as we know, exploited dramatically by cartels in the last four to five years.”

If the number of illegal border crossings reaches above 5,000 daily for a five-day average, an expulsion authority would automatically kick in so that migrants who cross illegally are expelled without an opportunity to make an asylum claim. If the number reaches 4,000, presidential administrations would have the option of using the new authority. Under the proposal, migrants could still apply at ports of entry.

Biden, referencing the authority, has said he would use it to “shut down the border” as soon as the bill is signed into law.

The bill would allot $20 billion to immigration enforcement, including the hiring of thousands of new officers to evaluate asylum claims and hundreds of Border Patrol agents, as well as funding local governments that have seen influxes of migrants.

Among Democrats, the tougher asylum standards have raised concern, especially from progressive and Hispanic lawmakers. Sen. Alex Padilla, a Democrat of California, said in a statement that the proposal would cause “more chaos at the border, not less.”

Immigration advocates were highly critical of new limits on asylum, with some urging that the bill be rejected in its current form.

The $14 billion in the package intended for military support for Israel could also splinter Democratic votes. Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent of Vermont, is pushing to strip $10 billion for offensive weaponry for Israel from the package while maintaining money for defensive systems.

Schumer said he would schedule a key test vote on the legislation Wednesday.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

United States News

Associated Press

Kansas governor and GOP leaders say they have a deal on tax cuts to end 2 years of stalemate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas’ Democratic governor and top Republican lawmakers say they have an agreement on a package of broad tax cuts, potentially ending a two-year political standoff that has prevented their state from following others in making big reductions. The deal announced late Thursday by Gov. Laura Kelly and GOP leaders would save […]

10 minutes ago

Associated Press

A week of disorder in Cleveland, as City Hall remains closed after cyber threat

CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland’s City Hall remained closed to the public Friday, as officials in Ohio’s second-largest city continued to grapple with the effects of a cyber threat. City operations have been hampered all week by the threat, which was first detected Sunday. The nature of the threat, its cause and how extensively it affected […]

11 minutes ago

Associated Press

Move over grizzlies and wolves: Yellowstone visitors hope to catch a glimpse of rare white buffalo

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) — Standing at the edge of a bluff overlooking the Lamar River in Yellowstone National Park, TJ Ammond stared through binoculars at hundreds of buffalo dotting the verdant valley below. Tan-colored calves frolicked near their mothers while hulking bulls wallowed in mud. As his wife and young children clustered behind […]

30 minutes ago

Associated Press

Her dying husband worried she’d have money troubles. Then she won the lottery

FREEPORT, Pa. (AP) — In the weeks before his death, Karen Coffman’s husband worried she might have money troubles after he was gone. But two weeks before he died in April of complications from a brain tumor, the Pennsylvania woman bought a scratch-off state lottery ticket that netted her $1 million. “When I told him […]

58 minutes ago

Associated Press

Judge says trial is required to decide government’s antitrust case over Google’s advertising tech

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A federal judge on Friday said the government’s antitrust case against Google over its advertising technology will go to trial in September, rejecting both sides’ request to rule in their favor as a matter of law. The Justice Department and Google had been expected to make their arguments seeking summary judgment […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Vermont governor vetoes data privacy bill, saying state would be most hostile to businesses

Vermont’s governor has vetoed a broad data privacy bill that would have been one of the strongest in the country to crack down on companies’ use of online personal data by letting consumers file civil lawsuits against companies that break certain privacy rules. Republican Gov. Phil Scott said in his veto message late Thursday that […]

2 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

Senators release a $118 billion package that pairs border policies with aid for Ukraine and Israel