Senate Republicans block Ukraine, Israel aid from advancing amid demands for border policy changes

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on funding for Ukraine from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023, in Washington. (AP/Evan Vucci)
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on funding for Ukraine from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023, in Washington. (AP/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans block the advance of a $110 billion package of wartime funding for Ukraine and Israel as well as other national security priorities as they tried to force President Joe Biden to include changes to US border policy.

The vote, a 49-51 tally that fell short of the Senate’s 60-vote threshold for moving ahead, came just hours after Biden said it was “stunning” that Congress has not yet approved tens of billions of dollars in military and economic assistance for Ukraine. His administration warned of dire consequences for Kyiv — and a “gift” to Russia’s Vladimir Putin — if lawmakers don’t act.

Speaking at the White House, Biden said Republicans who are insisting on border policy changes as a condition for voting for the aid “are playing chicken with our national security,” even as he expressed openness to some policy changes.

“Republicans in Congress are willing to give Putin the greatest gift he could hope for,” Biden said, saying American credibility was on the line both with other would-be aggressors and with its allies. “Any disruption in our ability to supply Ukraine clearly strengthens Putin’s position.”

“If we don’t support Ukraine, what is the rest of the world going to do?” he added.

Biden’s address comes hours after he huddled with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and leaders of the Group of Seven advanced democracies, which have staunchly supported Ukraine against Russia’s ongoing invasion.

Biden has asked Congress for nearly $106 billion to fund the wars in Ukraine, Israel and other security needs, but has faced stiff resistance on Capitol Hill. Some Republicans have grown tired of providing support to Ukraine after the US has already sent $111 billion, and other GOP lawmakers are insisting on stiff changes to US border policy as a condition of voting for the measure.

Biden said he supports more funding for border security. “I am willing to make significant compromises on the border,” he said. “We need to fix the broken border system. It is broken.” He added that he’s ”ready to change policy as well,” but accused Republicans of wanting a political issue more than bipartisan compromise.

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