Senate Defeats Border Deal, Ukraine, Israel Aid May Pass

The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., August 15, 2023. (Reuters/Kevin Wurm/File Photo)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Republicans in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday defeated a bipartisan effort to bolster border security that had taken months to negotiate, but said they could still approve aid for Ukraine and Israel that had been tied up in the deal.

By a vote of 49-50, largely along party lines, the Senate failed to approve a $118 billion bipartisan package that would tighten immigration laws, help Ukraine fight a Russian invasion and bolster Israel in its war with Hamas.

The measure needed 60 votes to advance in the chamber, which Democrats control by a 51-49 margin.

For months, Republicans have insisted that any additional aid to the two U.S. allies must also address the high numbers of migrants arriving at the U.S-Mexico border — a top voter concern.

But many Republicans promptly rejected the package when it was released on Sunday, even though it contained many of their priorities. Former President Donald Trump has pressed them to reject any compromise as he campaigns to defeat Democratic President Joe Biden in the November election.

Only four of the Senate’s 49 Republicans voted for the bill.

“Some have been very clear with me they have political differences with the bill,” said Republican Senator James Lankford, one of the negotiators.

“They say it’s the wrong time to solve the problem, let the presidential election solve the problem.”

Independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema, another one of the deal’s authors, said she was baffled by the sudden shift in fortune.

“Three weeks ago, everyone wanted to solve the border crisis,” she said. “Yesterday, nobody did.”

Still, the defeat of the bill left open the possibility that Congress could yet provide much-needed aid to U.S. allies. The Senate was expected later in the day to vote on a $96 billion package that strips out the immigration provisions but leaves the foreign aid intact.

An aide to Republican Senator Roger Wicker predicted that a foreign-aid package would get well over 60 votes in the 100-seat chamber — a rare show of cross-party support.

Even if it passes, that aid faces uncertain prospects in the House of Representatives, as Republicans who control that chamber have balked at further support for Ukraine.

“We’ll see what the Senate does. We’re allowing the process to play out,” House Speaker Mike Johnson told reporters.

Johnson had said the border package would be “dead on arrival” in his chamber.

Concerns over immigration have become a top issue in this year’s election campaign, and Biden has blamed Trump for the deal’s collapse.

Johnson, meanwhile, said on Wednesday he will hold another vote to impeach Biden’s top border official, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, after a first attempt failed in a 214-216 vote on Tuesday.

“It was a mess what happened here, but we’re cleaning it up,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

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