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Senate border bill fails, Ukraine funding vote expected

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(The Center Square) – A $118 billion deal that combined a batch of foreign funding for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan with a slew of controversial border provisions failed in the U.S. Senate Wednesday. The text of that bill was unveiled Sunday, but support imploded almost immediately.

Now that the border and foreign aid compromise has failed, Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is expected to force a vote on the foreign aid provisions as a standalone bill. That roughly $95 billion foreign defense aid package to Taiwan, Israel and Ukraine, which also includes humanitarian aid for Gaza and Ukraine, should get a vote later Wednesday.

Ukraine funding has become increasingly controversial, and many Republicans have made clear they will not support additional Ukraine funding without significant improvements with the southern border crisis.

Senate Republican leadership negotiated the combined border and foreign aid deal with Democrats, but several Senate Republicans, former President Donald Trump, and House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., vocally opposed it, helping crater support.

“Late last year, Senate Republicans agreed that any bill providing aid to Ukraine should (at a minimum) contain provisions that would bring an end to the border crisis,” U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “The bill text received Sunday night didn’t satisfy that requirement. That doesn’t mean Senate GOP leaders should now push a bill that funds Ukraine without border-security language.

“It means they need to go back to the drawing board,” he added.

Johnson publicly said the bill would be “dead on arrival” in the House.

“The Senate border deal is a failure on two fronts,” U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “It codifies catch and release, gives billions to NGOs, and normalizes 1.8M illegal aliens yearly. And secondly, every Democrat will say they tried to get a deal but the cruel Republicans blocked it. This is exactly what Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden want!”

Over 11 million illegal immigrants have crossed the U.S. border during President Joe Biden’s term, many of them asylum seekers but many others not.

The border bill’s supporters pointed out it would put some restrictions on asylum seekers and put in place a release valve to shut down the border if it gets overwhelmed. Republicans say the bill includes loopholes that allow the head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to broadly grant asylum. They also say the border is already overwhelmed and should be shut down immediately.

Politically, Democrats argue Republicans want to leave the border unsolved so they can campaign on it going into November. Republicans, though, say Biden already has the authority and just needs to enforce the laws on the books and alter border protocols and administrative asylum policies.

Cruz is one of several Republican senators to be outspoken against the bill. U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., blasted the bill on X as well. In particular, Cotton said it would add a backdoor ability for the Department of Homeland Security secretary to grant asylum claims for migrants.

“The bill codifies catch-and-release under so-called ‘alternatives to detention’ for any alien who says they *intend* to apply for asylum or another protection,” Cotton wrote. “The bill gives immediate work permits to everyone who says they want asylum, as long as they pass an initial screening by liberal bureaucrats. This will be a huge magnet for more illegal immigration.”

Trump also rallied opposition to the bill, warning Republicans: “don’t fall for it.”

As The Center Square previously reported, the Senate also faces two deadlines in March. One is the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Act as well as two government shutdown deadlines. Neither the House nor the Senate has passed a government funding bill despite the two staggered deadlines in early March.

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