Biden signals potential for deal on U.S. border security
President calls out Republicans for holding up military support for Kyiv
As Senate Republicans blocked the advance of tens of billions of dollars in military and economic assistance for Ukraine Wednesday, President Joe Biden berated their tactics as “stunning” and dangerous. Yet he also signalled an openness to what GOP lawmakers ultimately want: border policy changes.
Biden at the White House warned of dire consequences for Kyiv — and a “gift” to Russia’s Vladimir Putin — if Congress fails to pass a $110-billion (U.S.) package of wartime funding for Ukraine and Israel as well as other national security priorities. Hours later, Senate Republicans defiantly voted to stop the package from advancing, something that they had threatened to do all week.
“They’re willing to literally kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield and damage our national security in the process,” Biden said.
But even as he lashed Republicans for their stance, Biden stressed that he is willing to “make significant compromises on the border,” if that’s what it takes to get the package through Congress.
That statement has raised at least some hope that progress can be made in the days ahead as the Senate grinds through negotiations on border security, one of the most fraught issues in American politics. Biden’s remarks Wednesday were his clearest overture yet to Republicans and came at a critical time, with a path through Congress for the emergency funds rapidly disappearing and America’s support for multiple allies in doubt.
“If we don’t support Ukraine, what is the rest of the world going to do?” Biden added.
The president’s statement came hours after he huddled virtually with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and leaders of the Group of Seven advanced democracies, which have staunchly supported Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.
“We need to fix the broken border system. It is broken,” Biden said, adding that he’s ”ready to change policy as well.” He did not name specific policy proposals and accused Republicans of wanting a political issue more than bipartisan compromise.
Sen. James Lankford, the Oklahoma Republican who has been leading Senate negotiations over border policy, was encouraged by what he heard, saying it seemed like the president is “ready to be able to sit down and talk.”
Senators of both parties acknowledged they will need to move quickly if a deal is to be struck. Congress is scheduled to be in Washington for just a handful more days before the end of the year.
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