Biden blames Trump for crumbling GOP support of border security deal

Washington — President Biden urged Congress Tuesday to pass a national security supplemental bill that would provide funding for Ukraine, Israel and border security, hoping to bolster support as the deal appears to be falling apart on Capitol Hill. 

The president’s plea came as more House and Senate Republicans have said they oppose the Senate-negotiated deal, which would provide $118 billion for foreign aid and overhaul key portions of the U.S. immigration system. Opposition from House Republicans was anticipated, but a growing number of Senate Republicans have also come out against the long-awaited agreement since it was released on Sunday, potentially tanking it for now. Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, Republican Sen. James Lankford and independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema for weeks took the lead in hammering out a deal on the immigration portions of the larger package.

In remarks at the White House, Mr. Biden blamed one person for the crumbling Republican support: former President Donald Trump. 

“The result of all this hard work is a bipartisan agreement that represents the most fair, humane reforms in our immigration system in a long time, and the toughest set of reforms to secure the border ever,” Mr. Biden said. “Now, all indications are this bill won’t even more forward to the Senate floor. Why? A simple reason — Donald Trump, because Donald Trump thinks it’s bad for him politically. 

President Biden delivers remarks on the Emergency National Security Supplemental Appropriations Act in the State Dining Room of the White House on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024, in Washington.
President Biden delivers remarks on the Emergency National Security Supplemental Appropriations Act in the State Dining Room of the White House on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024, in Washington. Evan Vucci / AP

“So for the last 24 hours, he’s done nothing, I’m told, but reach out to Republicans in the House and the Senate and threaten them and try to intimidate them to vote against this proposal,” the president continued. “It looks like they’re caving. Frankly, they owe it to the American people to show some spine and do what they know to be right.” 

The president said the American people want a “solution” that puts an end to divisive debates about the border.

“Doing nothing is not an option,” Mr. Biden said. “Republicans have to decide. For years, they said they want to secure the border. Now they have the strongest border bill this country has ever seen. … Look, I understand the former president is desperately trying to stop this bill because he’s not interested in solving the border problem. He wants a political issue to run against.”

Mr. Biden said he’ll turn Republican opposition to the border security legislation into a campaign issue. 

“Every day between now and November, the American people are going to know that the only reason the border is not secure is Donald Trump and his MAGA Republican friends,” he said.

On Tuesday, some Republican senators suggested they would support advancing the foreign aid portion of the deal on its own, contradicting the longstanding Republican position that no foreign aid would pass without border security measures. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham reportedly said it’s time to “reconstruct” the package and limit it to foreign aid. GOP Sen. John Cornyn also suggested the possibility of splitting off foreign aid. Some Republicans blasted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for signing off an agreement without sufficient input from rank-and-file Republicans. 

Murphy, the Democratic negotiator, took to the Senate floor Tuesday, blasting Republicans for the deal falling apart. Murphy said the Senate GOP conference “now just seems to be another subsidiary of the Trump campaign.” 

Republicans who oppose the final product say the bill does not go far enough to deter illegal border crossings. Speaker Mike Johnson said the Senate bill would be “dead on arrival” in the House.

Separately, the lower chamber plans to vote on a standalone bill to provide more aid to Israel on Tuesday evening. The Biden administration announced Monday night that the president would veto the bill if it reaches his desk, in light of the White House’s insistence on the broader national security deal.

“Instead of working in good faith to address the most pressing national security challenges, this bill is another cynical political maneuver,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement of administration policy. “The security of Israel should be sacred, not a political game … The administration strongly encourages both chambers of the Congress to reject this political ploy and instead quickly send the bipartisan Emergency National Security Supplemental Appropriations Act to the president’s desk.”

Alejandro Alvarez contributed reporting.

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