Ukraine Aid Bill Heads for Collapse in Senate as Biden Makes Final Plea – Freedom Voice


President Biden’s sweeping emergency spending measure to fund the war in Ukraine teetered on the brink of collapse in Congress on Wednesday as Republicans prepared to block it in the Senate over their demands to attach unrelated measures cracking down on migration into the United States.

With a critical late afternoon vote looming, Mr. Biden and Democrats on Capitol Hill pleaded in increasingly urgent terms for Republicans to drop their opposition and allow the $111 billion spending bill to move forward. They warned that a refusal to do so would be a historic failure that would play into the hands of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. The measure would speed about $50 billion in security assistance to Ukraine and another $14 billion to Israel, as well as money to counter threats in the Indo-Pacific region and to fortify the U.S.-Mexico border.

The money for Ukraine, which would also receive a fresh infusion of economic and humanitarian assistance, was by far the most substantial element of the legislation. It was also the biggest point of contention as Republicans in Congress have increasingly turned against funding the war effort there.

“Make no mistake: Today’s vote is going to be long remembered, and history is going to judge harshly those who turned their backs on freedom’s cause,” Mr. Biden said at the White House. He said Republicans were “willing to literally kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield and damage our national security in the process.”

Mr. Biden said he was calling on Congress to “do the right thing,” adding: “Stand against the tyranny of Putin. Stand for freedom.”

But Republicans, even those who have been ardent supporters of continued American backing for Ukraine’s war effort, appeared unmoved and unwilling to drop their insistence on major immigration policy changes as the price of more help for Kyiv.

“Apparently some of our colleagues would rather let Russia trample a sovereign nation in Europe than do what it takes to enforce America’s own sovereign borders,” Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, said on the Senate floor. “They’re convinced open borders are worth jeopardizing security around the world.”

The all-but-certain demise of the legislation in the Senate meant that Ukraine was exceedingly unlikely to be able to secure the additional American aid before the end of the year — and possibly beyond. It is unlikely that Speaker Mike Johnson, who has told Senate leaders that a Ukraine bill without stringent border enforcement measures would not pass the Republican-led House, would put a broad emergency spending bill on the floor without the momentum of the Senate behind it.

Mr. Biden’s remarks punctuated a spate of warnings from administration and Ukrainian officials in recent days that, absent a fresh influx of funding from the United States, Ukraine will run out of the weapons it needs to beat back Russia’s invasion by year’s end. The fighting in Ukraine has largely reached a stalemate, after a Ukrainian counteroffensive to hold off Russian forces largely failed to meet its objectives.

But bleak assessments and urgent warnings have done little to spur progress in the Senate, which by Wednesday had devolved into an arena of finger-pointing as Republicans and Democrats each sought to pin the blame for Ukraine’s dire circumstances on their opponents.

“You can’t say ‘I’m for Ukraine but only if I get this wholly unrelated policy enacted,’” said Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, excoriating Republicans for trying to leverage Ukraine’s fate to promote their restrictive immigration agenda. “You can’t be for stopping Putin from taking over a country by force, and then vote against providing Ukraine the resources to do just that.”

It appeared highly unlikely that bipartisan Senate negotiations over border measures, which broke down over the weekend, would resume after the failed vote.

Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, made a last-ditch effort this week to entice Republicans into voting for the measure, by offering them a chance to try to attach their favored border provisions as an amendment to the spending bill. But they would need 60 votes to do so, meaning that Democrats would have to join in support, a remote prospect.

Mr. Biden, too, said he would be willing to make “significant compromises” on border provisions if Republicans would support the funding for Ukraine. “We need to fix the broken border system,” he said. “It is broken.”

This “is the moment for Republicans to put up or shut up,” Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, told reporters on Wednesday, citing Mr. Schumer’s offer. “If we cannot come to a vote that sustains our allies and partners in Ukraine, we will have failed this moment in history.”

In a floor speech on Wednesday, Mr. Schumer questioned whether Republicans were even interested in making a deal — or if the goal had been to abandon Ukraine all along.

“Has border been nothing more than an excuse for the hard right to kill funding for Ukraine, and too many other Republican senators who are not part of the hard right are going along?” Mr. Schumer said. “Because we don’t have much time to keep negotiating off the floor if all we’ll do is go around in circles.”

While most Senate Republicans still say they are in favor of arming Ukraine, that is no longer the case in the House, where a majority of Republicans have voted in recent months to curtail programs to send weapons to the war-torn country. Mr. Johnson has consistently opposed such measures.

As lawmakers continued to squabble over funding, alarmed Ukrainian leaders continued to make a series of appeals for help — and look for ways to go around congressional inaction.

“The price of investment in Ukraine is today invariably the question of the price of sovereign self-defense of any democratic country,” Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, wrote on social media.

Mr. Zelensky appealed to U.S. defense companies, encouraging them to work directly with Ukraine to build a long-term relationship — and promising that Kyiv would eventually repay the West, by contributing to others’ security.

“Together, we can create a new and powerful arsenal of freedom that will provide dependable support to all of the world’s free nations,” he said in a video address during a weapons industry summit organized by the Commerce Department. “Ukraine aspires to and is capable of becoming a security donor to all of our neighbors once it has ensured its own safety.”

In a speech at the same event, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III committed to staying in the fight with Ukraine, despite the discord over funding such ventures in Congress.

“Together with our allies and partners, I am confident that we have all the pieces that we need to help our Ukrainian friends sustain their fight for their sovereignty over the long haul,” Mr. Austin said.

Peter Baker and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington, and Marc Santora from Kyiv, Ukraine.

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