McConnell Backs GOP Border Policy Demands, Blocking New Ukraine Aid

The Democrats’ $110 billion proposed bill provides around $10 billion for border patrol, counter-narcotics, and immigration enforcement operations.
McConnell Backs GOP Border Policy Demands, Blocking New Ukraine Aid
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) speaks to reporters in Washington on Oct. 4, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Ryan Morgan

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) threw his support behind fellow Republicans who are demanding stronger border security measures in exchange for their vote in favor of President Joe Biden’s request to fund new Ukraine-related aid.

“I’m advocating and I hope all of our members vote no on the motion to proceed to the shell to make the point, hopefully for the final time, that we insist on meaningful changes to the border,” Mr. McConnell told reporters on Dec. 5.

The Democrat-controlled Senate has been debating for weeks on a $105 billion supplemental spending request sought by President Biden. He proposes pairing around $60 billion in new Ukraine-related aid with additional tens of billions for Israeli national security, international humanitarian efforts, and additional security personnel and equipment along the U.S. southern border.

On Dec. 5, Senate Democrats submitted a $111 billion bill that largely follows President Biden’s proposed supplemental request.

Some Senate Republicans have been reluctant to approve President Biden’s new spending for Ukraine and have said the additional funding for U.S. border security isn’t enough to sway them.

While many Republicans and conservatives have raised concerns about U.S. border security, some—such as Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.)—have said that the best solution is to clamp down on asylum and parole policies that incentivize illegal border crossings, rather than simply assigning more funding to border personnel and equipment.

“Joe Biden and Senate Democrats need to step up, get serious, and pass border security measures,” Mr. Daines said while speaking alongside Mr. McConnell at a news conference on Dec. 5.

“The time is now. We need policy changes. It’s about tightening asylum standards and reining in [Department of Homeland Security’s] parole powers.”

Mr. McConnell’s comments encouraging his fellow Republicans to oppose the new spending supplemental without “meaningful changes to the border” could prevent the bipartisan support needed to pass President Biden’s supplemental funding request.

Democrats currently control 51 Senate seats and would need at least nine Republicans to approve any legislation based on the supplemental funding request the president outlined.

Funds for Ukraine, Israel, Gaza

On Dec. 5, Senate Democrats announced a $111 billion spending bill that fulfills many of the requests in President Biden’s $105 billion supplemental request.

The bill allocates about $15.1 billion in direct Department of Defense support for Ukraine’s military, $13.5 billion to the U.S. industrial base to produce weapons to rearm Ukraine, $24.25 billion to the U.S. industrial base to replenish weapons provided to both Ukraine and Israel, $14 billion in State Department economic assistance to Ukraine, and another $2.1 billion in State Department funding to assist Ukraine and its neighbors in various other security projects.

The Democrats’ bill provides another $10 billion “to sustain global humanitarian assistance efforts” for “Ukraine, Gaza and the West Bank, East Africa, South Asia, and elsewhere.” The bill provides another $2.3 billion in assistance “for newly arrived refugees, including extending authorization for Ukrainians granted parole in fiscal year 2024.”

The Democrats’ bill provides about $10 billion for border patrol, counter-narcotics, and immigration enforcement operations.

That portion includes $5.32 billion for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, $2.35 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, $755 million for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for processing work authorization and asylum cases, and $1.4 billion to hire new immigration judges and their staff.

The legislation doesn’t include changes to the U.S. asylum and immigration parole processes that many Senate Republicans have requested.

While Senate Republicans are demanding changes to border and immigration policy before they will agree to a new supplemental spending bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said they should make those requests through an amendment to the Democrats’ proposal.

Such an amendment would require the support of all Republicans and at least 11 Democrats to pass in the Senate and become a part of the bill being brought forward by Democrats.

“We’re going to keep pursuing this and hopefully [Republicans will] come to a conclusion that the best thing to do is for them to offer an amendment and try to get 11 Democratic votes, get 60, plain and simple,” Mr. Schumer said at a Dec. 5 news conference.

Mr. Schumer went on to chastise Republicans for continuing to insist on their border policy changes without going through the amendment process he had prescribed.

He said Mr. McConnell “immediately hijacked” a classified Senate briefing on Ukraine on Dec. 5 to raise the Republican border security demands.