Senate Democrats Warming to Idea of Border Security If It Means More Aid for Ukraine
‘It’s hard to do something that Congress hasn’t done in 40 years — come to a bipartisan agreement on border security,’ a Democratic senator tells the Sun.
As Ukraine waits for another aid package from Congress, it is clear that the only hope for additional munitions and economic assistance lies solely on closed-door negotiations ongoing among key senators. Even if a deal that ties Ukraine aid to border security funding and policy changes is struck, it is unclear if the House would even consider the upper chamber’s proposal.
Before the Thanksgiving recess, the Democrat leading the Ukraine/border security negotiations, Senator Murphy, told the Sun that he and his colleagues had been working for weeks and would continue doing so over the course of the nearly two-week-long recess.
“It’s hard to do something that Congress hasn’t done in 40 years — come to a bipartisan agreement on border security,” the senator said. “I still think it’s possible, but I wish we weren’t in this position, which is we’re holding the fate of the world hostage to a domestic political issue.”
Over the weekend, the potential Ukraine/border deal was a key topic of discussion among senators and their foreign counterparts at the Halifax International Security Forum at Nova Scotia. Punchbowl News first reported that those foreign dignitaries were taken aback at the possibility of America receding from its support for Ukraine and what that could mean for the nation’s commitments to nations like Israel and Free China.
“Each of the groups that we’ve talked to, we’ve said this is going to determine whether or not there’s funding for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan,” Senator Rounds told the outlet regarding the grand bargain that is still being hammered out. “Because how do you go back home and say you’re justifying their defense but you’re not protecting our own southern border? Without the border being addressed appropriately, nothing is going to move.”
Senate Democrats who attended the conference said they are ready to deal on border security and are even willing to make significant changes to American asylum policy, which Republicans have demanded. Foreign officials were “surprised to hear that border security — not just funding for the border, but a change in our asylum policy — was a demand” of Senate Republicans, Senator Coons said.
One of the Senate’s most liberal members, Senator Welch, said he is prepared to advance a more restrictive immigration scheme to provide aid for Ukraine. “We Democrats have to do something about the border. I think it’s a real issue,” Mr. Welch said. “The situation at the border is a lot different than it was 10 or 15 years ago. And maintaining the same kind of policy is not a sustainable position, in my view.”
House Republicans, though, may be the biggest obstacle in that path of a grand bargain that senators hope to craft. The sheer level of dysfunction in the House has so far made the most basic forms of legislating a Herculean task, and conservatives have said they have no interest in anything less than a hard-line immigration bill such as they passed earlier this year.
Congressman Chip Roy — who went on a rant on the House floor before the Thanksgiving break to decry that the GOP has not passed even “one” piece of substantive legislation this year — told the Sun before recess that he will not even consider anything less than conservatives’ immigration bill.
House Resolution 2, as it has been docketed, would force the administration to resume construction of the border wall and end the policy of “catch and release,” among other things.
“I’ve been having conversations with a number of different senators,” Mr. Roy said. “Our position is clear: it’s HR2. … Here’s the bottom line — they’re either going to stuff us on the ability to move any kind of border security because they refuse to move HR2, or they’re never getting Ukraine. If they ever want to have a thought of having Ukraine, then you better sit down and do the border. That’s it. That’s the end of the conservation.”
“We don’t need a carving off of HR2. Otherwise, just call Zelensky and say, ‘I’m sorry,’” the congressman said.
When the House passed HR2 earlier this year, the Senate refused to take it up. Just days ago, Senator Schumer said he and his colleagues “totally oppose” the legislation and would not consider it as part of a Ukraine–border deal. President Biden also said he would veto the bill.