Senate Republicans block border security deal in test vote, squashing plan demanded from Democrats

Wednesday, February 7, 2024
Senate Republicans block border security deal in test vote
Lauren Glassberg has the story.

WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans have blocked border security deal in a test vote, squashing a plan they had demanded from Democrats.

The following is from a previous report.

Mounting a last-ditch effort, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tried Wednesday to salvage wartime funding for Ukraine from a collapsed deal that had included border enforcement, pushing ahead on a crucial test vote for tens of billions of dollars for Kyiv, Israel and other U.S. allies.

The New York Democrat planned to force Republicans to take two tough procedural votes. First, for a long-negotiated $118 billion package with border enforcement measures that collapsed this week after Republicans rejected it; then, for a modified package with the border portion stripped out. If Republicans support either bill, it would still take the Senate days to reach a final vote.

"We still believe Ukraine, Israel, humanitarian aid to the Middle East and helping Indo-China, as well as strengthening our military, is vitally important," Schumer told reporters Wednesday.

The roughly $60 billion in Ukraine aid has been stalled in Congress for months because of opposition from hardline conservatives who criticize it as wasteful and demand an exit strategy for the war. The impasse means that the U.S. has halted arms shipments to Kyiv at a crucial point in the nearly two-year-old conflict, leaving Ukrainian soldiers without ample ammunition and missiles as Russia mounts relentless attacks.

Ukraine's cause still enjoys support from many Senate Republicans, including GOP leader Mitch McConnell, but the question vexing lawmakers has always been how to craft a package that could clear the Republican-controlled House.

A pairing of border policies and aid for allies - first proposed by Republicans - was intended to help squeeze the package through the House where archconservatives hold control. But GOP senators - some within minutes of the bill's release Sunday - rejected the compromise as election-year politics.

"First Republicans said they would only do Ukraine and Israel, humanitarian aid with border. Then they said they would not do it with border," Schumer said. "Well, we're going to give them both options."

Schumer added that the revamped package would include legislation to authorize sanctions and anti-money laundering tools against criminal enterprises that traffic fentanyl into the U.S.

However, it was not clear whether the new plan, even if it passed the Senate, would gain support from House Speaker Mike Johnson. House Republicans are still insisting on a border plan, even though they rejected the deal negotiated in the Senate as insufficient.

"I don't see how that moves in this chamber. I don't know how the speaker puts that on the floor," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Ala., said, adding that he still wanted tougher border policies attached.

"If you don't deal with the number one issue in America, when you said that's the only way we can get to those others, I don't know how he gets around that."

After Donald Trump, the likely Republican presidential nominee, eviscerated the Senate's bipartisan border proposal, Johnson quickly rejected it. Trump has also led many Republican's to waver on supporting Ukraine, suggesting he could negotiate an end to the war and lavishing praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin, including after Moscow's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Johnson said this week he wanted to handle wartime aid for Israel and Ukraine in separate packages, but a bill he advanced that only included funds for Israel failed on the House floor Tuesday night.

House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said Wednesday that the "only path forward" is a comprehensive approach that includes funding for U.S. allies around the world, as well as humanitarian support for civilians caught in conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine.

That package includes $14 billion for Israel. It would invest in domestic defense manufacturing, send funding to allies in Asia, and provide $10 billion for humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, Israel, Gaza and other places.


Associated Press writer Seung Min Kim contributed.