Biden blames Trump for bringing border deal to verge of collapse, pushes GOP to 'show some spine'

The $118B package ties immigration changes to Ukraine, Israel aid.

ByAlexandra Hutzler ABCNews logo
Tuesday, February 6, 2024
Biden blames Trump for bringing border deal to verge of collapse
President Joe Biden said one person is to blame for the seeming collapse of a bipartisan package to change immigration policy and provide aid to Ukraine and Israel: Donald Trump.

President Joe Biden said one person is to blame for the seeming collapse of a bipartisan package to change immigration policy and provide aid to Ukraine and Israel: Donald Trump.

Speaking from the White House, Biden said the $118 billion bill is the result of "extraordinary effort" by a bipartisan group of senators, and represents "the most fair, humane reforms in our immigration system in a long time and the toughest set of reforms to secure the border ever."

"Now, all indications are this bill won't even move forward to the Senate floor," Biden said. "Why? A simple reason: Donald Trump."

"Because Donald Trump thinks it's bad for him politically, even though it helps the country," he continued. "He'd rather weaponize the issue than actually solve it," he said, claiming Trump was threatening Republican lawmakers if they didn't oppose the measure.

"And looks like they're caving," Biden said. "Frankly, they owe it to the American people to show some spine and do what they know to be right."

EXPLAINED | What the border bill would and wouldn't do

Biden, who has been hammered by Republicans for months over the surge in migrant encounters at the southwest border, faces low approval numbers on the issue heading into 2024. In his remarks, he sought to flip the script heading into what's likely to be a 2020 general election rematch, suggesting he would hit the issue hard on the campaign trail.

"Every day between now and November, the American people are gonna know that the only reason the border is not secure is Donald Trump and his MAGA Republican friends," he said.

"If the bill fails, I want to be absolutely clear about something. The American people are going to know why it failed. I'll be taking this issue to the country and the voters are going to know ..." he added.

The bill text was unveiled Sunday evening after months of negotiations, and was initially praised by President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. But hours after its release, it was deemed "dead on arrival" by House Speaker Mike Johnson, who has spoken with Trump frequently on this issue.

And now, it's on very thin ice in the Senate as a growing number of Republicans say they will block a key procedural vote set for Wednesday to move the package forward.

Democrat Chris Murphy, one of the lead negotiators, expressed exasperation at mounting Republican opposition to the bill in a floor speech on Tuesday, asking colleagues: "What the hell just happened?"

Biden, too, criticized Republicans for backtracking on their statements from the fall when they requested a bill that tied any further Ukraine aid to immigration changes.

"Just months ago, the Republicans were asking for this exact bill to deal with the border, to provide support for Ukraine and Israel," he said. "And now it's here. And they're saying never mind. Folks, we've got to move past toxic politics. It's time to stop playing games with the world waiting."

Speaker Johnson earlier Tuesday pushed back on the characterization he's reversed course, telling ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott that the deal isn't a true "border security measure."

"They sent us a supplemental funding proposal that has immigration reform but not real border security reform, and so that's why it's a nonstarter," Johnson said.

Biden detailed some of what's in the bill, including changes to asylum law and an emergency power to shut down the border if unauthorized migrant crossings reach certain levels. He said if the bill was law today, he'd be able to use the power to close the border while other fixes are being made.

Still, he noted it doesn't do everything he and Democrats have advocated for, like a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million unauthorized migrants already living in the U.S.

Biden also spoke at length about the urgent need for aid to Ukraine as it approaches the second anniversary of the start of Russia's invasion. Without it, he warned, Ukraine will lack the tools (air defense systems, artillery and more) to defend itself against the force of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"If we don't stop Putin's appetite for power control in Ukraine, he won't limit himself to just Ukraine and the costs for America and our allies and partners will rise," Biden said. "For those Republicans in Congress who think they can oppose funding for Ukraine, history is watching."