Categories
Saved Web Pages

US Lawmakers Running Out of Time to Pass Ukraine Aid, Border Security Funding

With just four working days left before its holiday recess, the U.S. Congress is no closer to passing the White House’s $60 billion request for aid to Ukraine.

Lawmakers are running out of time to negotiate a deal on border security that Republicans say must be included to overcome their concerns about funding foreign conflicts while leaving domestic priorities unaddressed.

“This is about securing our border so we can then help our allies,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters Thursday.

Watch related video by Patsy Widakuswara:

Graham called on President Joe Biden to enforce existing immigration laws, saying he would not return to his home state of South Carolina to “try to explain why I helped Ukraine, Taiwan and Israel and did nothing to secure our own border. I will help all of our allies, but we have got to help ourselves first.”

The Ukraine aid request is part of a larger $106 billion emergency supplemental request that includes military assistance to Israel and Indo-Pacific partners as well as Democratic priorities for border security funding.

“Republicans in Congress are willing to give Putin a gift, the greatest gift that Putin could … hope for,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Thursday.

Migrants seeking asylum wait to be processed by the U.S. Border Patrol after having crossed the Rio Grande River from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on Dec. 5, 2023.


Migrants seeking asylum wait to be processed by the U.S. Border Patrol after having crossed the Rio Grande River from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on Dec. 5, 2023.

Senators resumed negotiations Thursday after failing to open debate on the supplemental request by a 49-51 vote late Wednesday.

“I think the vote yesterday convinced them [Democrats] that we are serious about it, and something needs to be done,” Senator Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told VOA. “And I’m convinced that we’ll get there. That’s just democracy.”

Democrats object to Republicans’ proposals to change asylum rules at the U.S. border and argue the White House request must be considered all together as part of a broader national security strategy.

“It was Republicans who threw an unnecessary wrench into Ukraine funding by tying it to the extraneous issue of the border,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Thursday.

“We all agree that border security is important,” he said. “President Biden included strong border provisions in the proposal he sent us. But we also know it’s a complicated issue — very complex — that’s escaped bipartisan solution for years.”

Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had been expected to address a classified briefing for U.S. senators via videoconference but canceled unexpectedly. The meeting ultimately grew tense as Republicans accused Democrats and Biden administration briefers of not addressing their concerns about the border.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a strong supporter of aid to Ukraine, emphasized Thursday that Republican border security proposals must be included to win Republican votes.

“It is profoundly unserious to pretend that national security priorities don’t include securing our nation’s borders,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday.

“To warn about borders in jeopardy and not start with the one that’s being overrun here at home,” he said. “To invoke threats facing sovereign nations without a clear plan to uphold America’s own sovereignty.”

Brigadier General Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said Tuesday that there is $1.1 billion left to replenish U.S. military stockpiles for weapons and equipment sent to Ukraine.

The White House also warned earlier this week that the United States has about $4.8 billion left to supply Ukraine with aid, an amount that would run out by the end of this year.

Any compromise passed in the Democratic-majority Senate would also need to pass the Republican-majority House of Representatives, where support for Ukraine has diminished this year.

House Speaker Mike Johnson has indicated he does not plan to extend the House schedule past its last scheduled day in session on December 14. Earlier this week, he told reporters several key questions about accountability and the longer-term strategy for victory in Ukraine remain.

A man inspects damage at an oil depot hit by recent shelling in the course of the Russia-Ukraine war in Donetsk, Russian-controlled Ukraine, on Dec. 7, 2023.


A man inspects damage at an oil depot hit by recent shelling in the course of the Russia-Ukraine war in Donetsk, Russian-controlled Ukraine, on Dec. 7, 2023.

Many Republicans recognize that aid to Ukraine is important for deterrence but argue for more oversight.

Republican Representative Michelle Steel told VOA on Thursday, “We’ve been spending so much — billions and billions of dollars. We have to see transparency, that exactly where these monies are going and how they’re spending it.”

According to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, aid commitments to Ukraine are at their lowest since the beginning of the war in February 2022.

“Between August and October 2023 saw a stark drop in the amount of newly committed aid, with the value of new packages totaling just EUR 2.11 billion,” the report said.

Biden has worked to shore up the support of allies amid uncertainty over passage of the funding on Capitol Hill.

“Great Britain and the European countries will keep on supporting Ukraine,” David Cameron, British foreign secretary and former prime minister, told VOA.

“But clearly America is an essential partner in this,” he said. “They are the world’s biggest economy, the biggest defense player, absolutely vital. So, let’s keep going on making the argument about what a difference the resources will make.”

WP Radio
WP Radio
OFFLINE LIVE