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Senate defeats foreign aid bill stripped of border provisions

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., changed his vote to 'no' when it became clear the a foreign aid measure was going to be defeated Wednesday in the Senate. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., changed his vote to 'no' when it became clear the a foreign aid measure was going to be defeated Wednesday in the Senate. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI

Feb. 7 (UPI) -- The Senate defeated a bill Wednesday that would have separated border security from aid to Ukraine and Israel, as well as Indo-Pacific funding and humanitarian help for Kyiv and Gaza.

The measure failed 49-50. It needed 60 votes to pass.

Negotiations over immigration, which largely have been tied to aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, dragged on for four months but never really gained much traction among Republicans, who have said they want tougher border security measures than Democrats have proposed.

But then they got it this week in the bipartisan Emergency National Security Appropriations Act that would have allocated $118 billion to border security and aid for Ukraine and Israel. The idea was praised by Biden as the "toughest" and "fairest" law ever proposed. It also won the praise of Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

But Republicans began turning against that bill after U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., called it dead on arrival. His comments came as former President Donald Trump began to loudly voice his ideas on the topic as part of his presidential campaign.

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., Lankford's wife Cindy Lankford, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., walk down a stairwell near the Senate Chambers at the U.S Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. Lankford and Sinema were some of the lead negotiators of the bipartisan immigration and border security legislation, which also included foreign aid for Ukraine and Israel. The Senate failed to pass the legislation after it was shot down by several Republicans and Democrats. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI

Given those developments, lawmakers abandoned a compromise effort this week when it was clear that the border security provisions did not go far enough for the GOP.

Schumer criticized Senate Republicans over backing away from the border compromise idea before the vote on Wednesday, attributing the switch to opposition from Trump.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, walks to the Senate Chambers ahead of a vote at the U.S Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Collins was one of four Republicans who voted to proceed on the bipartisan immigration and border security legislation, which also included foreign aid for Ukraine and Israel. The Senate failed to pass the legislation after it was shot down by several Republicans and Democrats. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI

"Why have Republicans backed off on border when they know it's the right thing to do?" Schumer said on the floor Wednesday morning. "Two words: Donald Trump."

In a Politico interview, McConnell said for Republicans to solve border problems they've identified, it requires working with Democrats who control the White House and the Senate.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., leaves the Senate Chambers after a vote on the bipartisan immigration and border security legislation at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., leaves the Senate Chambers after a vote on the bipartisan immigration and border security legislation at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI

"The reason we've been talking about the border is because they wanted to, the persistent critics," McConnell said. "You can't pass a bill without dealing with a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate."

Democrats have strongly criticized Republicans opposing the border deal they insisted on initiating, arguing that the GOP cannot be trusted to negotiate in good faith, and offering their allegiance to Trump, who saw the measure as insufficient, as evidence.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks to the press after a vote on the bipartisan immigration and border security legislation. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks to the press after a vote on the bipartisan immigration and border security legislation. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI

No matter how stringent the border measures in the bill were, they were likely to be too weak, purely for political reasons.

Trump has made it clear he wants immigration and border policy to remain in the forefront of the public's conscience as the presidential campaign heats up. Any sort of victory for Biden on the issue would remove an arrow from Trump's campaign trail quiver.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to the Senate Chambers before a vote on the bipartisan immigration and border security legislation on Wednesday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to the Senate Chambers before a vote on the bipartisan immigration and border security legislation on Wednesday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI

During the president's flight to a campaign stop in New York on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre criticized House Speaker Johnson and fellow Republicans for the recent failures to approve national security measures and said there would be consequences because of it.

"So, because congressional Republicans are choosing partisan politics over our national security and refusing to pass the bipartisan national security agreement that includes significant border reforms and funding, over the coming weeks U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be forced to reduce operations because of budget shortfalls," Jean-Pierre said.

"Speaker Johnson and congressional Republicans should be held accountable," she said. "This was their choice. They have picked partisan politics over our national security."