US Senate unveils bill on border issue, Ukraine, Israel aid
The proposal could be the best chance for President Joe Biden to resupply Ukraine with wartime aid. But it faces an uncertain future amid opposition from hardline Republicans
US senators announced a $118 billion (€109.5 billion) bipartisan bill on Sunday aimed at bolstering border security as well as providing aid to Ukraine and Israel.
But it faces an uncertain future amid opposition from hardline Republicans.
The legislative package includes around $20 billion for US border security measures, $60 billion for Ukraine and $14.1 billion in security assistance for Israel.
The proposal also includes $10 billion in humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza, the West Bank and Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden said he strongly supports the bill.
"Now we've reached an agreement on a bipartisan national security deal that includes the toughest and fairest set of border reforms in decades," he said in a statement.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer plans a preliminary vote for Wednesday, but it remains to be seen if the deal would find enough backers to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Opposition from hardline Republicans
Despite its ambitious scope, opposition from former President and Republican presidential nominee frontrunner Donald Trump, and other influential hardline Republicans, casts doubt on its passage.
House Speaker Mike Johnson declared the package "dead on arrival" if it reaches his Republican-controlled chamber. This comes despite the top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, supporting the proposal saying Republicans would not get a better deal under a Republican White House.
Senator Kyrsten Sinema stated the legislation aims to secure the US southern border by requiring the Department of Homeland Security to shut it down if daily crossing attempts exceed 5,000 over a week.
Sinema called the bill "realistic, pragmatic, and the strongest solution to our border crisis in my lifetime."
It allocates $20 billion to immigration enforcement — including hiring of thousands of officials to evaluate asylum claims, as well as hundreds of border patrol agents.
The bill also includes $2.44 billion to US Central Command to deal with the security challenges in the Red Sea, and $4.83 billion to support US partners in the Indo-Pacific.
Immigration major concern for Americans
According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, immigration ranks as the second biggest concern for Americans, and is a top issue for Republicans specifically.
Trump has been campaigning heavily on opposition to immigration.
And Republicans appear hesitant to grant Biden a victory on what they consider a major weakness for him.
The proposed stricter asylum criteria have also worried Democrats, especially progressive and Hispanic members of Congress. The bill proposes a tougher and faster evaluation process for migrants seeking asylum.
At the same time, the bill could be the best chance for President Biden to deliver wartime aid to Ukraine, as delay in the US Congress in approving $60 billion for Kyiv has halted US shipments of ammunition and missiles, severely disadvantaging Ukrainian forces against the Russia's invasion.
Published: 05 Feb 2024, 10:51 AM