Concerns in Congress Rise as Aid for Ukraine and Israel Hangs in the Balance

Concerns in Congress Rise as Aid for Ukraine and Israel Hangs in the Balance

Amidst the ongoing debate over immigration and spending cuts, President Joe Biden has called on Congress to provide crucial aid to Ukraine and Israel. He emphasized the global significance of this moment, stating that it could shape the path for future generations. However, despite the urgency expressed by the President, prospects for delivering aid to these two countries remain uncertain.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill from both parties are now openly questioning whether an emergency aid package for Ukraine and Israel can be approved. The issue has become more complicated as immigration policy has been intertwined with the discussions. The House and the Senate are deeply divided on their stance regarding support for Ukraine, and finding common ground seems increasingly challenging.

President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer advocate for including funding for both countries in one comprehensive package. However, Speaker Mike Johnson has proposed a bill solely providing funding for Israel, coupled with IRS cuts. Senate Democrats swiftly rejected this proposal. Johnson maintains that any emergency package must include spending cuts to offset the cost, a demand rarely made by party leaders as it could impede urgently needed funding.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Johnson have made it clear that GOP support for additional Ukraine funding hinges on stricter immigration laws, particularly concerning border security with Mexico. However, reaching an immigration deal that satisfies House Republicans and avoids a backlash from the left appears highly unlikely, according to lawmakers involved in the negotiations.

While progress has been reported in the negotiations, with productive in-person talks taking place on Capitol Hill, Republicans are pushing for a border deal that closely reflects their immigration bill. This bill includes resuming construction of former President Donald Trump’s border wall and other policies that most Senate Democrats have already rejected.

The White House’s funding request in October sought $13.6 billion for additional border funding, which would enable the hiring of more border patrol agents and asylum officers to expedite the processing of asylum claims. Republicans, however, argue that they require more than just funding; they demand substantial policy changes related to asylum-seeking in the United States. One proposal under consideration is raising the credible fear standard for seeking asylum, making it more challenging for migrants to pursue asylum status initially.

A group of Senate Republicans, including Lindsey Graham and James Lankford, released their own policy changes earlier this month. These proposed changes focus on overhauling how the Biden Administration manages parole and mandating the detention of families together under the Department of Homeland Security.

Progress in the negotiations remains uncertain, with GOP negotiators insisting on measurable provisions that the administration must follow through on. There are calls for provisions that carry the weight of law rather than relying solely on funding.

The White House’s funding request also includes substantial aid for Ukraine, with over $61 billion allocated, as well as over $14 billion for Israel, and $7.4 billion for Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific region. However, Senator Graham, a vocal advocate for more Ukraine aid, stated that a deal on immigration is still far away.

The path forward in the House is equally uncertain due to divisions over Israel and border security. While Senate negotiators aim to keep the scope of immigration negotiations narrow to avoid further complicating Ukraine aid, a limited approach could provoke staunch opposition from House Republicans, who prioritize border security and stricter immigration laws.

Ultimately, the fate of aid for Ukraine and Israel remains unclear, as the debate over immigration and spending cuts hinders progress in Congress.