Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona accuses Republicans of ‘deciding to do nothing’ about border crisis

Feb 7, 2024, 10:49 AM | Updated: 1:48 pm

Split image of Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona on the left and the scene at the southern...

"Instead of deciding to do something, they're deciding to do nothing in the face of a crisis," U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona said about Republicans' opposition to a comprehensive border security bill. (Getty Images File Photos)

(Getty Images File Photos)

PHOENIX – Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona on Wednesday accused Republicans of playing politics by turning abruptly against a comprehensive border security bill after lengthy bipartisan negotiations.

“This has been negotiated over months now, Democrats and Republicans talking about this, coming up with a plan that we could all agree upon,” he told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News. “And instead of deciding to do something, they’re deciding to do nothing in the face of a crisis. This is a crisis on our southern border.”

Kelly said border security is an issue he hears about from constituents every day, and he won’t stop working on it.

“My hope is that at some point we can get this done,” the former Navy pilot and NASA astronaut said. “But you remember, this is something we had agreed upon and we had the votes, and, in this case, they decided to put politics over fixing the problem.”

How did Republicans respond to national security bill?

The Senate unveiled the border legislation, which is tied to wartime aid for Ukraine and Israel and humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza, on Sunday. Kelly’s independent Arizona seatmate, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, and Sens. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) and Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) were the bill’s lead negotiators.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, quickly said the legislation would be “dead on arrival” if it reached his chamber.

After Democratic President Joe Biden urged Congress on Tuesday to “show some spine” and pass the $118 billion national security bill, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged that the deal was dead. Senate Republicans then voted Wednesday against taking up the bill.

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

Sen. Mark Kelly says Ukraine aid is needed to defeat Vladimir Putin

Kelly bristled at the suggestion the legislation contained too much aid for Ukraine ($60 billion) and not enough for the border ($20 billion), saying it’s imperative that the U.S. helps a Democratic ally defeat Vladimir Putin’s Russian forces.

“The numbers were negotiated in a bipartisan way,” he said. “That is … the biggest investment we will have had in border security in decades, and over and over again what we’ve seen — whether it’s 2013, 2018 or now — [is] bipartisan legislation being killed, unfortunately, here in the Senate, in this case, by my Republican colleagues.”

Kelly pointed to House Republicans’ failed attempt at impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Tuesday as another example of the GOP playing politics.

“Instead of working on the policy, they decide to do this political thing of impeach a guy … because they don’t like how he was doing his job, and he’s trying to get the tools to do the job,” the Arizona Democrat said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona accuses Republicans of ‘deciding to do nothing’ about border crisis