Monday, December 4th 2023, 8:48 pm
The White House is warning Congressional leaders that U.S. aid to Ukraine is on the verge of running out and that allowing that to happen could have devastating consequences. But a partisan dispute over border policy is making it look more and more likely that it will happen.
It was President Biden who initially proposed including border security in his $106 billion supplemental funding package, along with aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. Oklahoma Senator James Lankford (R-OK) has been a lead negotiator on the border security and asylum element, intent on delivering real reform, which, he says, the administration has acknowledged is needed.
"The Department of Homeland Security knows what needs to be done," Lankford said in a recent interview, "they’ve said it over and over again: we have to have the ability to be able to turn people around at the border if they don’t qualify; if we have a delayed consequence, it is no consequence."
But Democrats are, so far, not buying all the way in and say the reforms Lankford and Republicans want would go too far, raising concerns that negotiations could drag on and also slow or prevent passage of the foreign aid. As a result, some are now asking Senate Republicans if they'd be willing to consider the funding for Ukraine and Israel separately from border security.
"No, we’re going to do this all together," Lankford told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's This Week on Sunday.
Lankford says, with record numbers of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, he can't, in good conscience, spend money on securing another nation's borders without also addressing America's own border crisis.
"We had 8,000 [migrants] a day coming across the border in October -- a day! Those are record numbers," Lankford said.
Meanwhile, the fighting continues to rage in Ukraine, and while European allies have stepped up their support, U.S. aid, which totals $111 billion since Russia launched its unprovoked invasion 21 months ago, has now dwindled to almost zero.
In a letter to House and Senate leaders Monday, Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget Shalanda Young said the situation is dire:
"I want to be clear: without congressional action, by the end of the year, we will run out of resources to procure more weapons and equipment for Ukraine and to provide equipment from U.S. military stocks. There is no magical pot of funding available to meet this moment. We are out of money—and nearly out of time."
Young told the leaders that cutting off the flow of U.S. weapons and equipment would "kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield" and increase the chances of Russian military victories,
"This isn’t a next-year problem," wrote Director Young. "The time to help a democratic Ukraine fight against Russian aggression is right now. It is time for Congress to act."
But Ukraine aid faces bigger hurdles in the House, where Republicans want it coupled with even stiffer border security policy and where new Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) is being accused by Democrats of politicizing foreign aid.
"He has bowed to the pro-Putin wing of his party," said Democratic Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar (D-CA)." He has not put up for a vote Ukraine assistance."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) could call for a vote on an aid package without border provisions this week, putting Republicans like Lankford in a difficult spot. Lankford and others have indicated they would be willing to filibuster any aid package that doesn't include border provisions, even though they acknowledge the importance of keeping Ukraine well-armed and stopping Putin and his kind.
"We can either engage with them now or actually have our soldiers on the ground in some other area. In the days ahead," Lankford said, "and I’d rather resolve it now."
Oklahoma Senator Markwayne Mullin also believes the U.S. should continue to help Ukraine, saying it’s in our true national interest and that, in signing the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances in 1994, the U.S. committed to doing so.
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