Senate unveils national security bill, border policy deal


Senate negotiators on Sunday released the text of a $118.3 billion bill that would provide emergency national security funding for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and others and would change how the U.S. handles immigration through the southern border.

The bill, which the Senate is expected to attempt to take up this week as a substitute amendment to a legislative vehicle, is the product of months of negotiations between Republicans who insisted on an overhaul of immigration policy and Democrats who sought continued aid to Ukraine and now Israel in their respective wars.

But the legislation faces an uncertain future in a divided Congress, where Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., has said it is “dead on arrival” in his chamber, and has panned the Senate for negotiating the measure without the input of House lawmakers.

Still, proponents of the Senate measure praised the bipartisan compromise that they hope will supersede the $110.5 billion security package Senate Democrats rolled out in December.

“I never believed we should link policy demands to emergency aid for our allies, but Republicans insisted — so Democrats negotiated in good faith over many weeks and now there is a bipartisan deal on border policy legislation,” said Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., in a statement.

“What we have here is something that can pass the Senate and the House. There is no reason for drama, delay or partisanship,” Murray said.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., called the package “one of the most necessary and important pieces of legislation Congress has put forward in years.”

But his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declined to immediately endorse the legislation, and instead said in a statement that the Senate “must carefully consider the opportunity” before it.

The bill would appropriate $60 billion in support of Ukraine — now nearly two years into a grinding war of attrition against Russia that has locked battle lines in place along Ukraine’s eastern flank.

Of those dollars, nearly $20 billion would go toward replenishing the Defense Department’s stocks of weapons and equipment, according to a summary provided by Murray. Another $13.8 billion would allow Ukraine to re-arm itself by purchasing additional weapons from U.S. defense manufacturers, and nearly $15 billion would be allocated to other forms of support, including U.S. intelligence sharing and military training.

The package also includes $14.1 billion in emergency aid for Israel, which has been at war with Hamas since Oct. 7, and $2.4 billion to support U.S. Central Command and address combat expenses related to conflict in the Red Sea.

On top of the emergency aid for Israel, the package would include $10 billion in humanitarian assistance for civilians in Gaza, the West Bank, Ukraine and other conflict zones.

The bill also includes nearly $5 billion to support American interests in the Indo-Pacific, including to bolster the U.S. industrial base by replenishing American weapons that have been sent to Taiwan.

The measure also includes provisions to prohibit U.S. funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Last month, Israel provided evidence that staffers for the agency were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. American officials have said the evidence is “credible.”

And it would require the Biden administration to submit a strategy to Congress regarding ongoing support for Ukraine in its war.

But the key to unlocking those tens of billions of dollars worth of emergency national security aid is also included in the bill: a host of immigration policy changes aimed at stemming the flow of migrants into the U.S. via the southern border — a situation lawmakers from both parties have described as a crisis.

According to Connecticut Democrat Christopher S. Murphy, one of the lead negotiators of the package, the proposed legislation would empower the president to reduce the flow of migrants into the U.S., speed up the asylum approvals process, which currently can take years, and expand legal pathways to immigration.

To that end, the bill includes just over $20 billion to address the operational needs and expand capabilities at the southern border.

But concurrent headwinds from Republican leadership in the House may endanger the legislation’s future.

On Saturday, Johnson told GOP lawmakers that he’s preparing to bring a stand-alone, $17.6 billion supplemental funding package for Israel and U.S. troops in the Middle East to the House floor this week — a move detractors decry as an effort to preempt the Senate’s push on its own, much broader supplemental.

“Given the Senate’s failure to move appropriate legislation in a timely fashion, and the perilous circumstances currently facing Israel, the House will continue to lead. Next week, we will take up and pass a clean, standalone Israel supplemental package,” Johnson, R-La., wrote in a letter to colleagues on Saturday.

The future of both packages is unclear. The Senate is unlikely to scrap its own bill, which is far more comprehensive and includes some of the most substantive border policy changes the U.S. has seen in years, for any standalone measure from the House.

The House, in turn, for now appears unlikely to take up the broader Senate bill.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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