Senate deadlock over border policy continues to threaten aid to Ukraine and Israel

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, speaks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol on November 15, 2023 in Washington, DC.

A partisan clash between Senate Republicans and Democrats over border policy is threatening efforts to send badly needed foreign aid to key U.S. allies as time and money run out for Ukraine.

Senate negotiators vowed to continue trying to reach a deal after Republicans blocked an advance on foreign aid Wednesday evening, protesting the package’s lack of changes to border and immigration policy. As the 2023 congressional calendar draws to a close, the impasse among negotiators has taken on a renewed sense of urgency.

The Senate has been struggling for weeks as it ties immigration and border security policy — one of Congress’s historically most divisive issues — to a legislative package to send aid to key U.S. allies, Israel and Ukraine. Republicans’ insistence on changes to border policy has led to heightened tension on Capitol Hill, turning into a closed-door showdown earlier this week.

Lawmakers are only in session next week before they break for a weeklong vacation, but senators have already called for them to stay on vacation until a deal is reached.

“If I had to be here on Christmas Day, I would be here,” Sen. Joan Tester, Democrat of Montana, told reporters ahead of the failed vote, explaining that the bill was too important to reach the deal she had been pushing for. Compromise is required on both sides.

The lead Republican on the border talks, Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, has vowed to continue to try and negotiate a path forward on border policy, even as several senators in the leadership and caucus have signaled that it may not end before they do. of the year.

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“This is not the end,” Lankford said from the Senate floor after the vote to advance the foreign aid package failed.

The actual vote tally was 49 to 51, short of the 60-vote threshold to proceed. At the end of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer changed his vote to “no” — a procedural step that would allow the measure to be brought back in the future.

Schumer said Wednesday represented a “sad night” after the failed vote, but added that Democrats are “committed to working very hard to find a solution to this impasse.”

Republicans have insisted on tying up foreign aid Along with major border security policy changes. A consensus was negotiated, but no bilateral agreement was reached on the contentious issue.

The standoff comes amid Israel’s war against Hamas and Ukraine’s war against Russian aggression. White House Gave a stern warning Funds for Ukraine ran out earlier this week and failure to secure an agreement to approve aid would present significant national security risks.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said ahead of the vote that Republicans would block the bill when it comes up for consideration because they believe it does not adequately address border security.

“Senate Republicans are going to refuse to shut down a bill that seriously ignores America’s key national security priorities. As we have said for weeks, legislation that does not include policy changes to secure our borders will not pass the Senate,” he said on the Senate floor.

Schumer has accused Republicans of being “hostages” because the path to aid for Ukraine and Israel is unclear.

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Schumer warned on Tuesday that “those who think that without more help from Congress, Ukraine will collapse, democracy in Europe will suffer, and Vladimir Putin will stop in Ukraine, history’s clear and unambiguous warnings are willfully ignored.”

Republican senators have warned they are on track to go into recess without passing the amendment, a clear message to their Democratic colleagues who they say are not paying enough attention to border security.

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn told CNN, “It’s becoming more and more clear that we can’t send a supplemental course, and I think that’s terrible.

“If I were a betting man, I’d say right now that unless we’re here at the end, I don’t know how you’re going to land this before the holidays. But we’ll see,” said Senate GOP Whip John Thune. “Maybe all of a sudden, there’s a convergence of views about the need to do this.”

President Joe Biden made an urgent call for Congress to provide aid for Ukraine in an impassioned speech Wednesday.

“Make no mistake: today’s vote will be remembered for a long time. Also, history is going to judge those who turned their backs on the freedom struggle. “Putin cannot be allowed to win,” Biden said.

Senate Democrats have released a legislative text for a $110 billion defense assistance package, which includes funding for Israel and Ukraine and humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza. The bill contains border security provisions, but no bilateral agreement has been reached on the issue.

In November, the GOP controlled the House A bill was passed $14.3 billion in aid to Israel. Democrats, however, took issue with the bill over enacting funding cuts to the Internal Revenue Service and the fact that it did not include aid to Ukraine.

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Speaker Mike Johnson has also emphasized the importance of border security. “Any national security package must start with the security of our own border,” he told a news conference on Tuesday.

Johnson blamed Democrats for failing a Senate procedural vote on aid to Israel and Ukraine because they did not comply with the GOP’s demands on the border, a vote that showed they needed to come to the table to find a solution.

“Now that Senator Schumer has demonstrated that there is insufficient support for his partisan approach, House Republicans are reiterating what we have said: Any additional national security legislation must protect our own border,” Johnson said in a statement. “The American people deserve nothing less.”

This story and topic have been updated with additional improvements.

CNN’s Haley Talbot and Betsy Klein contributed to this report.

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