NATIONAL NEWS

Deal on Ukraine aid and border security stalls in Congress as time runs short to bolster Ukraine

Jan 31, 2024, 12:17 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — With time slipping to bolster Ukraine’s defenses, Senate negotiators struggled Wednesday to finalize a bipartisan deal that would pair policy changes at the U.S. southern border with wartime aid for Kyiv as their carefully negotiated compromise ran into strong resistance from House Republicans and Donald Trump.

Senate negotiators have kept a close hold on the details of a bipartisan package on border enforcement and immigration policies that was supposed to unlock Republican support in Congress for aiding Ukraine. But conservatives view the tens of billions of dollars in proposed support with growing skepticism, unmoved by arguments about the larger stakes for global security. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg was making the case for the aid on Capitol Hill Wednesday, including at the Heritage Foundation, a power center for Trump’s allies in Washington.

President Joe Biden, who is pushing for a deal alongside Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate, faces a daunting task in convincing Republicans to defy Trump’s wishes and embrace the deal — especially in the midst of an election year.

Republican leaders, including House Speaker Mike Johnson, had looked to February as a potential deadline to approve another tranche of military aid for Ukraine. But the $110 billion national security package that congressional leaders say is essential to buttressing American allies around the globe, including Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, has been swept up in the fight over border policies.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian troops are running short of weapons, including air defenses and artillery to defend against Russia’s ongoing attack. The Pentagon reported last week it is out of money for Ukraine and unable to send the ammunition and missiles needed to fend off Russia’s invasion.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned in a morning floor speech that “the survival of Ukraine is on the line.”

“The only way we’ll rise to the occasion is if both sides are serious about finding a bipartisan compromise,” he said, adding, “We have not concluded negotiations so we will keep going to get this done.”

Even if the Senate is able to finish the deal and pass it, resistance is strong in the House, where Trump, the likely Republican presidential nominee, holds significant sway over lawmakers. Trump’s opposition has left Republican leaders increasingly questioning whether the border legislation should be jettisoned from the package in a last-ditch effort to get the Ukraine funding through Congress.

“It’s time for us to move something, hopefully including a border agreement, but we need to get help to Israel and to Ukraine quickly,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

Johnson discussed the idea of splitting up parts of the national security package in a Tuesday meeting with the speakers of the parliaments of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, but did not commit to any course of action, according to a person familiar with the meeting who spoke anonymously about the private discussion.

The speaker has long been skeptical of sending economic assistance to Kyiv, though he has said he wants to halt Russian President Vladimir Putin’s advance in Europe. But a large portion of Johnson’s conference in the House is more firmly against the aid.

Stoltenberg, the longest-serving chief in NATO’s history, pleaded Wednesday for lawmakers to act.

“I met many politicians from both parties. And I saw broad support for Ukraine,” Stoltenberg told CNN Wednesday. “But then, of course, there’s this link to the border issue which I respect is an important and difficult issue, but I believe it’s possible to find a way forward to support Ukraine regardless of how the border issue is handled.”

In a speech Wednesday at the Trump-aligned Heritage Foundation, Stoltenberg warned that Putin’s ambitions don’t just end with Ukraine. He said the Russian president is intent on “reestablishing Russia’s sphere of influence and shaping an alternative world order.”

As Russian forces and drone attacks pummel the region, the Ukrainians will face increasingly difficulty defending their cities and populations from incoming assaults.

Yet Republicans also want to cut portions of the package that would not go directly to Ukraine’s defenses. Of the $61 billion in the package for Ukraine, a portion, about $16 billion, would go toward economic, security and operational assistance.

The U.S. economic aid has been keeping the Ukrainian government functioning, paying for public works and employees and the services they provide, but Republicans chafe at the expenditures. They prefer the U.S. focus its spending on military hardware to win the war.

The economic assistance for Ukraine is expected to be trimmed back in the final supplemental package, according to a person familiar with the situation and granted anonymity to discuss it. The person said changes in the amount of humanitarian aid for Gaza, which was stripped from the package by House Republicans, is also being discussed.

Senate Republicans initially insisted on pairing border policy changes with Ukraine aid as part of a strategy to push the package through Congress. But so far, compromising on border policies has only made things more difficult.

Johnson, who has consulted with Trump on border policy in recent weeks, told fellow Republicans in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday morning that one of the Senate border proposal’s key compromises is a “non-starter” in the House. He pointed to a presidential authority to deny migrants the ability to apply for asylum at the border once illegal crossings rise above 4,000 daily, according to those in the meeting.

The speaker wants the expulsion authority to be mandatory no matter the number of crossings. While he has said he has not passed final judgement on the bill, he is poised to reject any compromise.

In a 30-minute floor speech Wednesday, Johnson laid blame on Biden’s handling of the border and rallied Republicans to insist on hardline border measures, even though those policies have virtually no chance of passing the Senate.

“If we take a step back, if we consider the current catastrophe at the border, we can all see that our country is at a critical decision,” he said.

___

Associated Press writer Tara Copp contributed.

National News

Associated Press

Oscar Mayer Wienermobile flips onto its side after crash along suburban Chicago highway

OAK BROOK, Ill. (AP) — One of Oscar Mayer’s hot dog-shaped Wienermobiles ended up flipped onto its side after crashing on a suburban Chicago highway, police said. The Wienermobile hit a car Monday morning along Interstate 294 and its driver lost control and overcorrected, causing it to roll onto its side near the Chicago suburb […]

3 minutes ago

FILE - Rain soaked memorials for those who died in a mass shooting sit along the roadside by Scheme...

Associated Press

3 Army Reserve officers disciplined after reservist killed 18 people last October in Maine

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Three Army Reserve officers were disciplined for dereliction of duty in the aftermath of a rampage in which a reservist killed 18 people in Maine, according to an Army report that cited communication failures within the chain of command, and between military and civilian hospitals, among other shortcomings revealed during an […]

35 minutes ago

Associated Press

2024 Election Latest: Harris has secured enough support to earn party’s nomination, AP survey finds

Vice President Kamala Harris had a busy 24 hours after being endorsed as the Democratic presidential candidate by President Joe Biden. She has secured enough delegates to earn the party’s nomination and raised more than $81 million, a record sum for the 2024 political cycle. Meanwhile, The Secret Service director testified before a congressional committee […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

2 killed when small plane crashes after takeoff from Long Island airport

RONKONKOMA, N.Y. (AP) — A small plane crashed shortly after takeoff on New York’s Long Island, killing both people who were on board, authorities said. The single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza A36 took off from MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma at about 6:15 p.m. Monday and crashed after the pilot tried to return to the runway, Suffolk County […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Kamala Harris is preparing to lead Democrats in 2024. There are lessons from her 2020 bid

ATLANTA (AP) — Kamala Harris was greeted by a massive, cheering crowd during the first rally of her newly announced presidential campaign in 2019. Speaking on a late January day outside city hall in her hometown of Oakland, California, she framed her bid as part of something bigger than simply winning an election. “We are […]

4 hours ago

FILE - Unsold 2024 Escalade utility vehicles sit in a row outside a Cadillac dealership on June 2, ...

Associated Press

With US vehicle prices averaging near $50K, General Motors sees 2nd-quarter profits rise 15%

DETROIT (AP) — U.S. customers who bought a new General Motors vehicle last quarter paid an average of just under $49,900, a price that helped push the company’s net income 15% above a year ago. And GM Chief Financial Officer Paul Jacobson said he doesn’t see his company cutting prices very much, despite industry analysts’ […]

4 hours ago

Deal on Ukraine aid and border security stalls in Congress as time runs short to bolster Ukraine