Politics

Congress devolves into chaos over border and national security funding

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House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., plans to bring up a stand-alone bill with aid to Israel after rejecting a bipartisan senate border deal.

Jose Luis Magana/AP

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Jose Luis Magana/AP

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., plans to bring up a stand-alone bill with aid to Israel after rejecting a bipartisan senate border deal.

Jose Luis Magana/AP

After months of stalling an international aid package for Ukraine and Israel in favor of tougher border policy, top Republicans are now calling for a standalone international aid package because they now oppose the addition of stricter border policy they demanded.

As the legislative efforts appeared to falter, so too did an entirely partisan effort by House Republicans to impeach Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Several House GOP members expressed doubt about impeachment, leaving leaders hours to try to rally support in order to avoid an embarrassing vote planned for Tuesday evening.

The chaos over the border is the latest collapse for one of the least productive congressional sessions in history.

The Senate started the week at odds over a national security bill that was released Sunday. It was specifically crafted to meet GOP demands that Democrats link border policy changes to President Biden’s request for military aid to Israel and Ukraine.

By Monday night Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., the top Republican negotiator on the Senate deal, was predicting that a procedural vote on the package would fail this week.

“We are trying to figure out what to do next,” Lankford told reporters in the Capitol. “People are saying, Hey, we need a lot more time to go through this.”

The deal began to unravel after former President Trump publicly trashed it and House GOP leaders proclaimed it “dead on arrival.” The failure of the package – which includes roughly $20 billion for border provisions, and raises the threshold to meet asylum claims – would cast doubt on Congress’ ability to get anything done on border security or foreign assistance between now and Election Day.

Murphy suggested Wednesday’s procedural vote would likely mark the end of a bipartisan effort to address the border, saying about Republicans, “They walked away from the old plan, they’ll walk away from a new plan.”

The shift has left senators from both parties discussing plans to go back to the original plan from last year to try to pass funding for Ukraine, Israel and humanitarian aid separately.

Senate Democrats plan to forge ahead on border

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he plans to move forward with a procedural vote to begin debate tomorrow or Thursday, in response to Republican requests for more time to consider the bill.

“Senators are elected to vote, not to be afraid, run away, make excuses when it comes to voting on the tough issues,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “No one is being asked to take a position on the supplemental tomorrow. The only thing a yes vote would allow us for the Senate to simply begin to consider, discuss and debate the vitally important issues before us now.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., said Tuesday morning that “Republicans simply cannot vote for the bill in good conscience,” arguing that it does not do enough to secure the border, and that Biden already has legal authority to address the surge of migrants that he is not using.

Standalone aid to Israel also at risk of failure

Instead, House Republicans will bring forward a bill to provide military assistance to Israel. But that proposal seems unlikely to pass.

Johnson told reporters that aid to Israel “cannot wait any longer,” and should be passed separately from assistance to Ukraine. Several senators have suggested in recent days that Ukraine aid should be considered independently if the larger package collapses.

But it was Republicans who initially demanded border policy changes be paired with Ukraine assistance, and it’s not clear there is appetite among the House GOP for a standalone Ukraine bill. Johnson said Tuesday that efforts to help Ukraine “have not been abandoned.” The Pentagon has warned that Ukrainian forces are running out of ammunition and other resources now that U.S. funding has lapsed.

In a sign of the ongoing dissent, Republican leaders were forced to skirt a Rules Committee hearing on the bill that might have exposed anger among far-right conservatives. Rules must sign off on legislation and the full House must agree in order for a bill to come up with a simple majority vote.

Johnson chose instead to bring the Israel aid bill to the floor under suspension of House rules, which requires a two-thirds vote to pass, and already Democratic leaders and members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus have said they will oppose it.

House Democratic leaders slammed the standalone proposal as a “nakedly obvious and cynical attempt” to undermine the bipartisan deal in the Senate. Meanwhile, the House Freedom Caucus has criticized the bill for its lack of financial offsets.