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Senators unveil $118B package combining border strategies with assistance for Ukraine and Israel

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WASHINGTON — A ‍much-anticipated $118 billion package was unveiled by Senators on Sunday, combining border enforcement policy with wartime ‍aid for Ukraine, Israel, and other U.S. allies. This marks the beginning of an ⁤uphill battle to pass the bill amidst strong skepticism from Republicans, including House Speaker Mike Johnson.

This proposal may ⁣be President ⁤Joe Biden’s best opportunity to provide Ukraine ⁢with ⁢much-needed wartime aid, a significant foreign‌ policy objective that he ⁢shares with both the Senate’s leading Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer, and⁣ leading ⁣Republican, Sen. Mitch McConnell. A crucial vote on the legislation is expected to take place in the Senate this week, but it faces staunch opposition from conservative factions.

As Congress remains deadlocked over approving ⁢$60 billion in aid for Ukraine, the U.S. has ceased shipments ‌of ammunition and missiles to Kyiv. This has left Ukrainian soldiers at a disadvantage as they strive to repel Russia’s invasion.

In⁤ a statement, Biden expressed that the Senate proposal “enables⁢ the United States, ‍in collaboration with global partners, to uphold Ukraine’s freedom and bolster its capacity ‌to resist Russia’s aggression.”

Regarding ‌the border, Biden stated that the immigration system has been dysfunctional⁤ for ​too long and it’s high time for ⁤a fix. “This will enhance our ‌country’s safety, fortify our border, ensure fair and humane treatment of people while maintaining legal immigration, in line with ‍our national values,” Biden said.

The new legislation⁤ would ‍also boost U.S. defense manufacturing, ‌allocate $14 billion in military​ aid to Israel, direct nearly $5 billion to⁤ allies in the Asia-Pacific, and offer humanitarian‌ assistance to civilians embroiled in conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza.

“The⁣ United States and our allies are grappling with multiple, intricate, and ‌in some cases,⁤ synchronized challenges from adversaries aiming to⁢ destabilize democracy and extend authoritarian influence worldwide,” Schumer stated.

In an attempt to overcome resistance from House Republicans, McConnell insisted last year that changes to border policy be incorporated into the⁢ national security funding package. The bill proposes a⁣ revamp of the asylum system at the border with swifter and stricter enforcement, and would grant presidents new‌ powers to instantly expel⁢ migrants if authorities are overwhelmed by the number of asylum seekers.

However, in a shift on immigration during an election year, Biden and many Democrats have endorsed the concept of rigorous ​border enforcement, while Donald Trump⁢ and his⁢ allies have criticized the proposed measures as inadequate.

Republicans have also been hesitant to hand Biden a political victory on an issue they perceive as one of his major weaknesses. They have contended that⁣ presidents already possess sufficient authority to curb⁢ illegal ⁣border crossings⁢ — a position that would ensure immigration remains a key issue⁢ in the presidential election. Simultaneously, House Republicans have advocated for their own,​ stricter version of border⁤ security‍ legislation.

Johnson, a⁤ Louisiana Republican, told NBC’s “Meet the‍ Press” on Sunday that⁢ he had attempted to involve House Republicans directly in the Senate’s negotiation, but⁣ was rejected. He stated he was unaware of the bill’s specifics, but believed ​the solution to border issues should ‌be a House proposal ⁢of stringent immigration measures.

“What we’re advocating is ⁢the need to stem the ‌flow,” Johnson said. He also clarified that he — not Trump — would decide whether to bring the ‍bill to the floor if it passes the Senate.

However, Johnson signaled ‌on 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 demonstrate support for Israel independent of the Senate deal.

Nevertheless, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona independent who negotiated the border proposal, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that ⁢the legislation would be “realistic, pragmatic, and the⁣ most robust solution to our border crisis in my lifetime.”

“I ‍am confident that when our ‌bill passes the Senate and reaches the House, members of the‍ House, including Speaker Johnson, will have had ample opportunity to read, understand the bill and ask questions,” Sinema said.

The border proposal, which took months to negotiate, is designed to gain control of an‍ asylum system that has been overwhelmed by record numbers of​ migrants arriving at the border. The bill suggests a revamp of the system with stricter and faster enforcement measures.

If the number of illegal border crossings exceeds 5,000 daily for ⁤a five-day​ average,​ an expulsion authority would automatically⁢ be activated, sending migrants back to Mexico without an opportunity to make an asylum claim.‌ If the​ number reaches 4,000,⁢ presidential administrations would have the option of using the expulsion authority.

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

White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said Sunday that Johnson ⁢has “continued to tie himself in knots to delay border security, delay crucial investments ⁣in the fight against fentanyl, ⁢and delay Border ⁣Patrol hiring⁣ — as a host of ‍his ‌House Republican colleagues⁤ openly state that they ⁣only oppose the bipartisan border deal because of‌ former President Donald Trump.”

At the state level, Republican ‌governors have contemplated‌ deploying National Guard troops to the border. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who once again led⁤ a group of ⁤over a dozen other GOP​ governors, including Utah ‍Gov. Spencer Cox, to the southern border near Eagle Pass on Sunday, has been applauded by his⁤ party for his extraordinary confrontation with the Biden administration over immigration enforcement.

The ⁣bill would allocate $20 billion to immigration ​enforcement, including the hiring of thousands of new officers to evaluate asylum claims, as well as hundreds of Border Patrol agents. Some of that ⁤money would go⁢ to⁢ shelters and services in cities across the U.S. that have​ struggled to cope ‌with the ‌influx of migrants‍ in⁤ recent months.

Migrants seeking ‌asylum, which‌ offers‍ protection for people‌ facing persecution in their home countries,‌ would encounter a stricter and faster process for their claim evaluation. The standard in initial interviews, known as​ credible fear screenings, would be raised, and many would receive those interviews within days of arriving at the border. Final decisions on their asylum claims would ⁤occur within months, rather than the often years-long wait that happens now.

Among Democrats, ‌the stricter asylum standards have raised concern, especially from ⁢progressive and Hispanic lawmakers. While ⁢the wings of both parties ​have been openly critical of the policies under discussion, many⁢ have withheld final judgment until they​ can⁢ review the ⁢text of the bill, which was a closely guarded⁤ secret in the Capitol.

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

House Democratic‌ Leader Hakeem Jeffries suggested in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” that he would be supportive ⁣if⁤ it gets to the ⁢House.

“It should not be dead on arrival,” he said. “We need more common sense in Washington, D.C., less conflict and ⁢less chaos. We’re in‍ a period of divided government. That means we should​ be trying to find bipartisan common ground.”

Senators ​completed the border proposal on Friday, but other portions of the package,‍ including aid for U.S. ⁣allies, investments in defense manufacturing capabilities and‌ humanitarian assistance for ⁤people caught up in conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine, were still being negotiated by Senate appropriators.

However, Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, suggested during an interview on “Fox ‍News Sunday” that GOP senators would push to slow the Senate from advancing the bill quickly.

“We’re not going ⁤to deal with this next week,” he said. “It’s too important.”

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Good punctuation and grammar, agree:

    This package demonstrates the senators’ commitment to addressing both national security concerns and global partnerships. A well-balanced approach that ensures our borders are secure while supporting vital allies like Ukraine and Israel.

  2. Good punctuation and grammar, agree. A strategic and necessary package that addresses multiple concerns with a strong focus on national security and global alliances. #SupportingSecurity

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