July 22, 2024

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Senators on Sunday released the details of a $118.2 billion bipartisan aid proposal for Ukraine, Israel and the southern U.S. border, after months of painstaking, closed-door negotiations.

The long-awaited bill requests $60.1 billion for Ukraine aid, $14.1 billion for Israel and $20.2 billion to improve security at the U.S. border. It also includes smaller pockets of funding for humanitarian assistance in war-torn regions, and defense operations in the Red Sea and Taiwan.

President Joe Biden initially proposed a more than $105 billion aid package in October. The Senate’s new deal roughly matches the funding proportions Biden had requested for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

The central difference in the new proposal is over $13 billion more in border security funding, which was a major point of contention in the months-long Senate talks.

Republicans have criticized the Biden administration for its handling of the border, which has seen record numbers of migrant crossings in recent months. Democrats have countered that the president needs further executive authority to institute more aggressive border security.

The president said Sunday that he supports the Senate’s bipartisan proposal, including the term that gives him “new emergency authority to shut down the border when it becomes overwhelmed.”

“I urge Congress to come together and swiftly pass this bipartisan agreement. Get it to my desk so I can sign it into law immediately,” Biden said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said a vote is scheduled for the bill on Wednesday.

The publication of the bill marks a small victory for Senate negotiators who have gone back and forth for months trying to strike a deal.

“I know the overwhelming majority of Senators want to get this done, and it will take bipartisan cooperation to move quickly,” Schumer said in a statement following the proposal’s release. “Senators must shut out the noise from those who want this agreement to fail for their own political agendas.”

Just as soon as the Senate back-patting is over, the proposal will face its next major battle: House Republicans.

Republican lawmakers have been preparing to greet the Senate bill with hostility.

Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., on Saturday announced a House proposal that would fund Israel alone, a blatant attempt to preempt the Senate’s broader foreign aid bill. Johnson said the House would vote on the bill next week.

The White House criticized the House’s counterproposal, deeming it a political stunt.

“We see it as a ploy that’s being put forward on the House side right now, as not being a serious effort to deal with the national security challenges America faces,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “From our perspective, the security of Israel should be sacred. It shouldn’t be part of any political game.”

Despite the White House’s scolding, the funding package has increasingly grown into a political pawn over the past few weeks.

As the election kicks into high gear, Republican lawmakers who once appeared ready to compromise have suddenly gone cold on the deal, aware that its passage would make a convenient victory for the Biden 2024 campaign.

Johnson has been a prime example of the tone shift.

In mid-January, he joined Biden and Schumer for what he called a “productive” meeting specifically about the border negotiations. After the meeting, in an expression of bipartisan hope, Johnson said the officials had reached a level of “consensus.”

But former president and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump has reportedly put pressure on Republicans to torpedo the deal so that he can continue using the border crisis as a line of attack in his campaign.  

In a Sunday interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Johnson denied that Trump had any outside influence: “He’s not calling the shots. I am calling the shots for the House.”

But a week after Johnson’s optimistic meeting with Schumer and Biden, the speaker reversed course and expressed cynicism about the deal.

“If rumors about the contents of the draft proposal are true, it would have been dead on arrival in the House anyway,” Johnson wrote in a letter to his colleagues in late January.

The White House has called out the mood swing.

“Suddenly, we’ve heard a change of tune,” Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a recent briefing. “Actually tackle the problem instead of playing politics with it.”

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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