Republican senators are calling for the border to be secured before approving aid for Ukraine while President Volodymyr Zelenskyy lobbies for support in Washington, D.C.
In interviews on “NewsNation Now,” Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Thune of South Dakota, key figures in the ongoing debate, were critical of President Joe Biden’s approach, with concerns about border security taking center stage.
Graham expressed admiration for Zelenskyy and commended Ukraine’s resilience in the face of Russian aggression but believes his presence in Washington is being exploited to worsen the situation.
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“I’m all in for Ukraine, but I’m not going to do anything for Ukraine, Israel or Taiwan until we secure our border,” Graham asserted. He stressed the need to address border policy, citing FBI Director Christopher Wray‘s warnings of heightened threats.
Biden teamed up with Zelenskyy to push for increased military aid to Ukraine after hosting a joint press conference.
The call for urgency from the Biden administration comes as bipartisan support is sought for a $110 billion aid package, including $61.4 billion for Ukraine. Biden emphasized the need for swift action, urging Congress to pass the funding before the Christmas holiday. Failure to do so, he warns, could be a “Christmas gift to Russian President Vladimir Putin.”
Thune acknowledged the difficulty of pushing legislation through the Senate, the House and onto the president’s desk within the remaining time frame.
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In a press conference, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed skepticism about the feasibility of passing the aid package before Christmas, citing challenges in the legislative process. This adds to the urgency as funding deadlines approach, putting pressure on lawmakers to act swiftly.
“I’m ready and offered compromises already,” Biden said. “Holding Ukraine funding hostage in an attempt to force through an extreme Republican partisan agenda on the border is not how it works.”
In an “On Balance” interview, Sen. Mike Braun expressed skepticism about Biden’s commitment to compromise.
Republican Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas, in an interview on “The Hill,” asserted Republicans are standing firm on their demand for enhanced border security before approving additional funds for Ukraine.
Marshall said this is an opportunity to leverage Ukraine funding to address border security concerns. The senator questioned why Republicans have to “beg Joe Biden to secure the border.”
“We have this once-in-a-generation opportunity to use Ukraine funding to leverage the border, and by golly, we’re going to do it,” Marshall stated. He outlined the conditions for what he deems as “meaningful border security,” including changes to asylum policies, implementing “remain in Mexico” policies and increased resources for the Border Patrol.
When asked about Republican Sen. J.D. Vance’s suggestion Ukraine might cede land to Russia as part of a potential resolution, Marshall passed on commenting directly, asserting the border security issue must be resolved first.
Democrats expressed frustration about linking border changes to Ukraine aid. They say some of the changes being proposed would gut protections for people who desperately need help and would not ease the chaos at the border.
When asked about specific changes to border policy, Graham advocated for measures such as ending catch and release, raising the asylum standard and making individuals wait outside the country for asylum hearings. He criticized the current system, stating that, in his opinion, 90% of asylum seekers are denied during hearings, indicating a need for a more robust screening process.
“We had the lowest crossings in December of 2020. In the last 40 years, they changed all (of) Trump’s policies, and the rest is history. We’re having about 9,500 a day come across,” Graham said.
Braun argued that the border situation deteriorated after the Trump administration, and the Democrats’ stance on immigration is causing challenges even in states like Indiana.
Thune responded to claims that Republicans were using the issues for political gain, asserting Democrats had been unwilling to compromise on critical aspects of border security. He noted that while there had been some movement on asylum, it only addressed a small fraction of the daily influx.
Thune underscored the risk of inaction, expressing concern about individuals on the terrorist watch list entering the country undetected. He emphasized the urgency of addressing the issue and criticized the lack of engagement from the White House.
Braun acknowledged the positive impact of funding Ukraine as an investment but questioned its sustainability. He raised concerns about the financial burden on the United States, emphasizing the need for a broader financing plan to ensure long-term viability. Braun also noted that Europe, being closer to the war, should take on more responsibility in addressing the situation.
The U.S. has already provided Ukraine with $111 billion for its fight against Russia’s 2022 invasion.
Responding to questions about his relationship with Biden, Graham acknowledged his friendship with the president. Despite disagreements on issues like the Hunter Biden investigation, Graham expressed his willingness to assist Biden on foreign affairs issues.
“The Hunter Biden situation is sad, but I can understand a father’s reaction, but the Hunter Biden thing cannot be swept under the rug,” Graham stated, emphasizing the need for transparency and addressing concerns raised by the House.
Thune acknowledged Congress’s oversight responsibility but expressed his reluctance for Senate impeachment trials. He noted the formal inquiry was warranted due to what he sees as the lack of cooperation in providing information.