Biden’s emergency war aid for Israel, Ukraine fails in Senate amid GOP demands for border security
President Biden’s $110 billion national security spending package with aid for Israel and Ukraine was blocked by Senate Republicans on Wednesday after Democrats refused to beef up southern border security.
A procedural vote for the legislation failed 49-51 along mostly party lines, with 60 votes required to advance the measure.
The episode marked the latest setback for Mr. Biden’s foreign aid request and yet another signal that Congress is poised to skip town next week for the holidays without approving the aid for Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan and humanitarian assistance for Gaza, as negotiations remain jammed.
Republicans roundly rejected Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s offer of an amendment vote on border security in exchange for advancing Mr. Biden’s proposed aid. Republican senators called it an insincere political gimmick that would give vulnerable incumbents cover to vote for stronger border security, only to have the amendment fall short of the 60-vote threshold and left off the final bill.
“Demanding serious border policy changes isn’t injecting an unrelated issue into the conversation,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. “President Biden’s own request wanted us to throw billions of dollars at this exact problem.”
Mr. Biden’s package includes humanitarian aid to handle migrants once they are in the U.S. illegally, but Democrats have rebuffed policy changes to things like asylum and parole that Republicans say would stem the record flow across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Now, senators hope the failed vote breathes new life into talks. But the funding is likely to get punted to January as lawmakers embark on a three-week recess at the end of next week. The White House says prior U.S. funding for Ukraine will run dry by the end of the month.
Some senators suggested it was time for Mr. Biden and Mr. McConnell to take the negotiating reins from rank-and-file members.
Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin said it would be “helpful” for the president to step in.
“He’ll be able to help define the limits of change that we can achieve in time to continue support for Ukraine,” the Illinois Democrat said.
Before to the Senate vote, Mr. Biden accused Republicans of “playing chicken with our national security” over immigration.
“They’re willing to literally kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield and damage our national security in the process,” Mr. Biden said of Republicans’ demand for border policy changes.
But he also said, “In terms of changes of policy and to provide resources we need at the border, I’m ready to change policy as well.”
Though just one Senate Democrat broke ranks on Wednesday, some said it was time to make concessions. Independent Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, who caucuses with Democrats, opposed the bill over its aid to Israel. Mr. Schumer also switched his vote to no, a common procedural tactic that allows him to hold a future vote more quickly.
Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, said his support for Mr. Biden’s package was contingent on strengthening southern border security in the final version. He expressed confidence about the White House “understanding that something has to be done.”
“My support for Israel and Ukraine is unwavering, but it does not supersede my commitment to my own country,” Mr. Manchin said. “We need major, structural reforms to limit the number of illegal crossings at our southern border and regain operational control.”