Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked a bipartisan bill to strengthen border security that had been negotiated for months. But they said they could still approve aid to Ukraine and Israel that was tied to the agreement.
The Senate failed to approve a bipartisan $118 billion package that includes tougher immigration laws, aid to Ukraine and support for Israel. The votes were split largely along party lines, 49 to 50. The bill needed 60 votes to advance.
Republicans insisted that any additional aid to the two U.S. allies would also have to include the problem of skyrocketing illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border, an important issue for voters.
But many Republicans immediately rejected the bill when it was introduced on Sunday, even though it contained many of their priorities. Former President Donald Trump urged them to reject any compromise as he campaigns for president in the November election.
Only four of 49 Senate Republicans voted in favor of the bill.
“Some have been very frank with me about their policy differences with the bill,” said Republican Sen. James Lankford, one of the negotiators. – “They’re saying now is not the time to solve the problem, let the presidential election solve the problem.
Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, another of the deal’s sponsors, said she was puzzled by the sudden change in the situation.
“Three weeks ago, everybody wanted to solve the crisis on the border,” she said. – Yesterday, no one wanted that.”
Still, the bill’s defeat left open the possibility that Congress could still provide much-needed aid to its allies. The Senate was expected to vote the same day on a $96 billion package that eliminates immigration provisions but retains foreign aid.
An aide to Republican Sen. Roger Wicker suggested the foreign aid package would get well over 60 votes in the 100-seat chamber – a rare case of bipartisan support.
But Senate leaders instead delayed action for several hours as Republicans tried to negotiate behind closed doors on a set of amendments that could revive the border debate and change provisions on aid to Ukraine and Israel.
Republican John Cornyn said his fellow lawmakers are seeking to work out amendments on border security and the distribution of aid to U.S. allies.
“The question is what other amendments do people want so we can move to a final vote,” Cornyn said. He expressed optimism that an agreement could be reached but expressed skepticism that a deal could be reached Wednesday. He said a vote on the aid package could be delayed until Thursday.
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