President Joe Biden’s urgent push to replenish Ukraine’s war chest and send aid to Israel is on the brink of collapse in the Senate, where Republicans are prepared Wednesday to block the funding unless Democrats agree to add strict measures to clamp down on migration at the US border with Mexico.
A classified briefing with administration officials called to shore up support devolved into a partisan screaming match Tuesday afternoon, with Republicans angrily accusing Democrats of trying to steamroll over their demands for a border crackdown.
The meltdown, which took place on the eve of a critical test vote in the Senate on a $110.5 billion emergency spending bill, not only made it clear that the measure would fail, but severely dimmed the prospects for any bipartisan agreement soon. A vote to block aid would spotlight flagging US resolve at a critical time in Ukraine’s war against President Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
“We are about to abandon Ukraine,” Senator Christopher Murphy, who played a leading role in negotiations with Republicans over the past few weeks, said as he left the briefing with Cabinet-level officials.
“When Vladimir Putin marches into a Nato country, they will rue the day they decided to play politics with the future of Ukraine’s security,” he said of Republicans.
Republican senators leaving the briefing said they were outraged that administration officials had refused to answer their questions about border security, which they said was a prerequisite for any plan to send emergency help to US allies.
“They want tens of billions of dollars to help our friends and allies overseas, but they’re not willing to do what’s necessary to prevent a potential crisis at the border,” said Senator John Cornyn. “The Biden administration just does not seem to care.”
Even Republicans who have argued vociferously for helping Ukraine amid waning support in their party for doing so said there was no appetite for a bill to do so unless it also clamped down on immigration.
“Count me in on Ukraine; if we do not help Ukraine and Putin gets away with this, you’ll be in a war with Nato — I got all that,” said Senator Lindsey Graham. “You will get a robust Republican vote for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan if you have real border security to deal with what I think is one of the biggest national security problems I’ve seen since I’ve been up here.”
New York Times News Service