March 4, 2024

The White House is trying to light a fire under Congress to pass $106 billion in war aid for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, but the emergency funding isn’t dire enough for Democrats to cut a deal with Republicans on border security.

For more than six weeks since unveiling the package, President Biden and his Senate Democrats have rebuffed GOP demands that it include tougher measures to stem a massive influx of illegal immigrants into the U.S.

Republicans want policy changes such as overhauling the asylum process which critics say is abused by illegal immigrants and the parole system that the Biden administration has used to excuse border jumpers.

“If they want a national security supplemental, they’ve got to do something to deal with the national security crisis at the border,” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune, South Dakota Republican. “This is not a normal immigration negotiation.”

Democrats blame Republicans’ demands for potentially tanking the aid deal — not the president’s unwillingness to clamp down on the border.

“Progress on the national security package has been on ice for weeks,” said Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. “Not because Republicans have objected to Israel aid, or aid to Ukraine, or humanitarian aid to innocent civilians in Gaza, or the Indo-Pacific, but because Republicans have injected partisan and extreme immigration measures into the debate.”

Bipartisan discussions in the Democratic-run Senate were on the brink of collapse Monday, dimming hopes for Congress to approve any spending for Israel or Ukraine before leaving town for the holidays in less than two weeks.

A Democratic source familiar with border security talks told reporters that Republicans “have moved in the wrong direction” since House Speaker Mike Johnson met last week with Senate Republicans. The source scoffed at the Republicans’ policy proposals, saying it sounded like something from former Trump advisor Stephen Miller, whom the political left deemed to be anti-immigrant.

“Republicans know Democrats cannot support” those policies, the source said.

Republicans involved in the talks struck a more optimistic tone.

“We continue to work to find a solution that will protect our national security, stop the human trafficking and prevent the cartels from exploiting the obvious loopholes in our law,” Sen. James Lankford, Oklahoma Republican, said on social media. “That is the goal, and we will continue to work until we get it right.”

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young warned congressional leaders Monday that Ukraine funding will run dry by year’s end and that a failure to quickly replenish it “will kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused the White House of scolding Congress “with a brag wheel of its supposed leadership countering Putin in Europe.”

“Washington Democrats are wasting time with bizarre public scoldings instead of engaging actively in the border security discussions required to complete a viable national security supplemental,” the Kentucky Republican said.

The U.S. has provided Ukraine with $111 billion. Mr. Biden’s new request includes another $61 billion for the Eastern European nation’s fight against Russian invaders.

The Republican-controlled House last month passed $14.3 billion for Israel to combat Hamas, but Senate leaders from both parties have rejected the piecemeal approach. The House bill also paid for the cuts by clawing back extra funding for the IRS in the Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the IRS cuts would increase the deficit because the agency would collect less taxes, but conservatives rejected that calculation.

Mr. Schumer is expected to hold a vote on Mr. Biden’s $106 billion request later this week unless a deal is struck with Republicans. The bill will not garner the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster, which Republicans will mount without the GOP’s border provisions.

“We’re willing to make concessions,” Mr. Schumer said. “But we will not keep going in circles if Republicans aren’t interested in even meeting us halfway.”

Mr. Johnson, Louisiana Republican, said Monday that nothing will get through his chamber until the Biden administration stops “ignoring the catastrophe at our own border.”

“House Republicans have resolved that any national security supplemental package must begin with our own border,” Mr. Johnson said. “We believe both issues can be agreed upon if Senate Democrats and the White House will negotiate reasonably.”