Republicans are ratcheting up pressure for President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats to adopt stricter border policies if he hopes to see more funding for issues like Ukraine.
Members of Congress have been debating for weeks over a $105 billion supplemental spending request from President Biden, which ties about $60 billion in new funding for Ukraine to additional military funding for Israel and new money for border personnel and equipment. Many Republicans have balked at the border provision in the spending proposal and said the proper fix for their long-running complaints about border security should come through stricter border and immigration policy enforcement, rather than simply allocating more money.
The standoff over President Biden’s supplemental spending request came to a head this week as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) attempted to advance legislation that largely mirrored President Biden’s initial terms. Mr. Schumer told Republicans that they could instead pursue their border security demands through amendments to the bill. Senate Republicans in turn voted against a procedural effort to advance the Democrats’ bill, prolonging the border policy debate.
“We offered a golden opportunity for a border amendment vote of their choosing if it can get 60 votes—they rejected it,” Mr. Schumer said on social media, speaking of the Wednesday procedural vote. “Republicans need to get serious and stand up for democracy.”
At a press conference on Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said a deal is never going to happen “as long as Senator Schumer is in charge of these negotiations,” and called on President Biden to come to the negotiating table himself.
Democrats Balk at GOP Border Demands
While it was President Biden’s spending proposal that suggested tying border security funding to issues like the war in Ukraine, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) chastised Republicans for blocking the supplemental funding bill until they get concessions on border policy.
“I think it’s despicable. They say they’re for Ukraine. Ukraine is burning. Ukraine is at war. We want Ukraine to win. Delaying funding that they desperately need is not being ‘for Ukraine,’ it’s not being for freedom or democracy there on the front line,” Mr. Hoyer told NTD News on Thursday.
Some of the Republican border demands mirror provisions in H.R. 2, a bill the Republican-majority House passed in May that limits asylum eligibility and temporary admissions into the United States for illegal border crossers, and restarts border wall construction projects.
Mr. Hoyer said he could personally support provisions that make sure “that we don’t have people coming into the United States who are unauthorized” and that more rapidly determine “whether or not those who seek asylum under our law are in fact eligible.” But the senior Democratic lawmaker, who has served as a house majority leader and majority whip, said it’s wrong to delay aid to Ukraine over this issue.
“We ought to deal with making sure our borders are secure. And we’re willing to talk about that and how to do that, but to make that aid to Ukraine and Israel contingent upon that factor is not in the best interest of the United States of America,” Mr. Hoyer said.
Republicans, on the other hand, have cast U.S. border security as an issue of equal or greater concern than the conflicts in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
At the Thursday Republican press conference, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) acknowledged the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, attacks on U.S. troops elsewhere in the Middle East, and further foreign policy risks from Russia and China, but said “there is no more urgent threat to this nation than our wide-open southern border.”
“It’s not just that that puts strain on jobs and wages for American workers or schools and hospital system and housing, but hundreds and hundreds of those people are on the terror watch list or they’re so-called ‘persons of concern’ that could be infiltrating our country to commit mass casualty terror attacks against our people,” Mr. Cotton added. “And they are here not by accident, but because of Joe Biden’s specific policy choices.”
In her own comments to NTD News on Thursday, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) directed some of her criticism back at Mr. Schumer, a fellow New Yorker, for not placing border security more highly.
“I don’t see how Sen. Schumer can see what is happening at our border, know that all this fentanyl streaming into the country killing Americans, seeing what is happening in his backyard in New York City with the mayor saying the city’s going to be destroyed by this migrant crisis, and not do anything. How can you continue to not do anything on the border?”
Republicans Expect Democrat Concessions on Border
Rep. Rich McCormick (R-Ga.) told NTD News he thinks it makes sense to use negotiations over President Biden’s supplemental spending request to force stronger border security policies.
“Why not get something out of it? Why not get H.R. 2, which the entire country wants?” Mr. McCormick said. “I mean, it’s universally popular. I get it, you’re always going to have your 30 percent outside that, but even Democratic mayors [in] sanctuary cities are saying enough is enough.”
The Georgia Republican said a “dirty little secret” of the ongoing debate is that numerous Democrats have begun to privately express support for H.R. 2’s provisions.
“They’ve literally said it to me where they said, ‘I hope it does pass,’ because it’s a problem for them,” Mr. McCormick said. “It’s creating all kinds of social unrest inside of their own conference. They need this to pass. They want this to pass. This is something that they’re going to pretend like they’re voting for Ukraine when they’re voting for the border simultaneously.”
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) was more reserved about what border security concessions Republicans could hope to get from Democrats.
“Are we going to get all of H.R. 2? I’m, you know, being realistic,” Mr. McCaul told NTD News. Mr. McCaul said the demands House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and other Republicans have taken so far “is the leverage we need to get something serious done to protect our Southwest border.”
Speaking with reporters, Mr. McCaul said funding for Ukraine is still a major focus of his.
“The argument I made to my colleagues is we can’t abandon our NATO allies in Ukraine like we did in Afghanistan. It would only embolden and empower our adversaries,” he said, mentioning Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and the Ayatollah of Iran.
Mr. McCaul was more evasive when asked if lawmakers might move ahead with a standalone bill to fund Ukraine if they can’t eventually agree on Republican border security demands.