Republican senators block Ukraine-border bill after Donald Trump opposes it

Senate Republicans blocked the path forward on a security package that included restrictions to immigration in exchange for aid to Ukraine, Israel and allies in the Indo-Pacific.

The legislation—which Senators James Lankford of Oklahoma, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Chris Murphy of Connecticut—failed 49-50 as a majority of Republican senators voted against the legislation. Speaker Mike Johnson and the rest of Republican leadership in the US House of Representatives opposed it as well.

Many Republicans came out with their opposition after former President Donald Trump condemned the legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer criticised Republicans for opposing legislation when they demanded that any security package include increased restrictions on immigration.

“Today, senators face a decision several months in the making,” Mr Schumer said in a floor speech before the vote to end debate. “Will Senate Republicans vote to start debate – just a debate – on bipartisan legislation to strengthen America’s security, stand with Ukraine, and fix our border – or will they cow to Donald Trump’s orders to kill this bill?”

Both allies of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and allies of Mr Trump voted to end debate on the bill.

“I think that we need to keep working on a product that will move us forward and we need something that will be acceptable to the House as well,” Republican Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa told The Independent.

Republican senators had pushed to include measures they said would secure the US-Mexico border in exchange for aid to Ukraine in its war against Russia and Israel after the deadly attack by Hamas on 7 October. Mr Trump criticised the negotiations before the negotiators released the bill text on Sunday and he came out in fierce opposition to the legislation this week, leading many other Republican lawmakers to say they opposed it.

“They asked for it, but I think what we’ve learned is that there’s only one high principle, which is that they do whatever Donald Trump tells them,” Democratic Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii told The Independent.

Senator Markwayne Mullin, Mr Lankford’s fellow Oklahoma Republican, did not deny Mr Trump’s influence but stipulated that senators are free to act on their own.

“He's former president of the Republican Party,” he told The Independent. “So what he says is very relevant, but at the end of mind, at the end of the day, everybody's gonna make their own mind.”

Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina told reporters that Mr Trump did not call him but rather Mr Tillis caled Mr Trump. But Senator Ted Cruz of Texas brushed off criticisms that Republicans were captive to Mr Trump.

“They want to argue Donald Trump is the devil and pay no attention to the massive policy failures Democrats have given the American people throughout history,” he told The Independent.

The legislation’s failure tees up the Senate to vote on a bill that only includes aid to Israel and Ukraine as well as money to help Taiwan and other allies in the Indo Pacific shore up their security against China.

Republican Senator Todd Young of Indiana expressed openness to supporting the legislation.

“Unless there are any barnacles on the vessel I’m unaware of,” Mr Young told The Independent.

But more Republicans expressed scepticism of supporting a standalone bill, with Senator John Cornyn of Texas saying that he wanted an open amendment process.

“If he’s gonna try to build a tree and jam it then, I’m not going to go along with that,” Mr Cornyn told The Independent.

President Joe Bidencriticised Mr Trump and Republicans for opposing the bill, saying that Republicans are blocking the legislation to improve Mr Trump’s chances at winning the 2024 presidential election.

Meanwhile, the House failed to pass its version of stand-alone foreign aid legislation on Tuesday. That bill would have sent $17.6bn to Israel had it not missed the two-thirds mark needed to pass the bill without a rule, receiving only 250 votes in favour and 180 votes against, with 14 Republicans opposing the legislation and 46 Democrats. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries came out against the legislation despite Mr Johnson’s push for it.

House Republicans suffered a second defeat on Tuesday, failing to impeach Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas in a 216-214 vote. Republicans alleged that he failed to enforce existing immigration laws and breached “public trust” when he told lawmakers the US-Mexico border was secure. Homeland Security Committee Republicans pushed the articles of impeachment onto the House floor in a party-line vote late last week.

Senator Rick Scott, a Republican from Florida and staunch ally to Mr Trump, said he wants the Republican party to find unity in light of the bills’ failure.

“The Republican conference needs to come together and say, ‘what do we need to do something?’ If you do that then you probably can come together, that‘s how you do deals,” Mr Scott told The Independent ahead of the vote.