House Speaker Mike Johnson has conveyed a strong message to fellow Republicans, asserting that significant changes to U.S. border policy should be a non-negotiable focal point in discussions surrounding President Joe Biden’s proposed $106 billion package for Ukraine, Israel, and other security needs. Johnson emphasized this stance ahead of classified briefings organized by the Biden administration, aiming to underscore the urgent necessity of the proposed aid. However, progress on the aid package has been complicated by the inclusion of border security in the negotiations.
“The battle is for the border,” Johnson declared during a news conference, emphasizing it as a top priority before addressing other obligations. In a closed-door meeting with GOP lawmakers, he labeled border policy as the “hill to die on” in negotiations, aligning with conservative demands outlined in H.R. 2, a bill passed in May. This legislation seeks to resume border wall construction and tighten asylum claim processes for migrants.
Johnson restated his position in a letter to the White House, reiterating the Republican insistence on addressing border policy before addressing other issues. This stance comes amid warnings that the U.S. may run out of funding for sending weapons and aid to Ukraine by year-end, jeopardizing its ability to counter Russia’s invasion.
Senate negotiations, marked by a bipartisan effort to find common ground on border policy proposals, have faced challenges. Senate Republicans, recognizing the divide between the House and Senate, are pushing for border security measures but have not insisted on the broad policies proposed in the House.
Sen. James Lankford expressed skepticism about passing a bill without bipartisan support, emphasizing the need for a rational approach to lawmaking. As talks continue, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer aims to proceed with a test vote on emergency funding for Ukraine, Israel, and national security without the border provisions demanded by Republicans.
Schumer revealed that Johnson indicated an attachment of H.R. 2 was necessary for passing the supplemental package through the House. However, Democrats have accused Republicans of unwillingness to compromise, prompting Republicans to present a counter-offer. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell declared GOP senators would block the funding bill’s advancement until it incorporates the desired border security policies.
House lawmakers received insights from national security adviser Jake Sullivan on the urgency of providing assistance. While some House Republicans remain skeptical about allocating more wartime funding to Ukraine, the White House has urged lawmakers to promptly pass Biden’s emergency funding request without delving into public details of the border negotiations.
Speaker Johnson, despite voting against security assistance for Ukraine in September, has expressed support for funding the country’s military. However, he emphasized the need for more information from the White House regarding the strategy for exiting the conflict.
Lawmakers are increasingly concerned about the possibility of Congress failing to pass the funding by the end of the year. Sen. Chris Murphy emphasized the gravity of the situation, criticizing Republicans for tying Ukraine funding to a domestic political priority, creating a challenging political puzzle to solve.