GOP torpedoes tripartite bill

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As the 2024 US Presidential election draws closer, several issues are at the forefront of the American political debate. Immigration and foreign policy are amongst them; two pertinent issues which a recent bill attempted to tackle this month. Now, the fate of the bill, and its implications for the Ukraine War in particular, remain uncertain. 

Last October, Republican Senators refuted the idea of additional military funding for Ukraine without first addressing the ongoing crisis at the US-Mexican border. Responding to this demand for a significant reform to the legislation on immigration, a bipartisan group comprised of both parties was established. The result is a $118bn national security agreement aiming to placate both demands, covering three political hot-topics: the status of southern border with Mexico, the Russia-Ukraine War and the Israel-Gaza conflict, tied up in one neat package.  

Of the allocated funds, a staggering sum of $60bn was designated for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. This funding, characterised as an urgent measure, is aimed to replenish the depleted stockpiles of weapons and enable the nation to procure additional materials from US suppliers in the future. 

To date, the US is Ukraine’s biggest contributor in military aid, extending over $47bn since 2014 in demonstration of its, as the U.S. Department of State writes, “unwavering support for the sovereignty of Ukraine” and recognition of the country’s role as a “key regional strategic partner.” Many Americans view this financial support of the war as an instrumental step in mitigating the aggression of the Russian forces. President Joe Biden, in a statement urging the House to support the bill, emphasised that “Putin continues to dream of subjugating the Ukrainian people.”

These amendments were simply not drastic enough to satisfy the Republicans

Another $20bn of the bill’s plan for military aid was allocated to fortify the United States’ border with Mexico, funding that would enable more border patrol guards to be employed. Yet, the most impactful changes proposed were not financial, but legislative. The measures would grant President Biden the authority to close the border if migrant encounters reach an average threshold of 5,000 a week. This tactic would be supplemented by a streamlining of the asylum-seeking process, which currently has a waitlist of years. 

However, these amendments were simply not drastic enough to satisfy the Republicans who have already voted in favour of HR 2, a bill which severely restricts access to the United States via the southern border. A weaker approach to this issue may become a political liability for Joe Biden. As Trump took a hard-line approach with the infamous Trump Wall, Biden is keen to show decisiveness in dealing with the border crisis ahead of the election. In his four-year presidency, migrant encounters at the border rose to an unprecedented 2.5mn in 2023.

Biden is keen to show decisiveness in dealing with the border crisis ahead of the election

The bill also authorised the US to provide an additional sum of $14.1bn in military aid for Israel against Hamas and for their defence against Iran. This issue has caused a cleft within the Democrats. Whilst President Biden emphatically supports Israel, others have condemned their military strategy. Bernie Sanders, for instance, called for Israel to revise their methods, condemning the treatment of the Palestinian people in Gaza. The bill also set aside money for humanitarian aid in areas including the Middle East, whilst other sums of money are for marked for US military operations in the Indo-Pacific.

However, after four months drafting this original proposal, the bill was, as House Speaker Mike Johnson predicted “dead on arrival” and scrapped almost immediately. Support for the bill in the House fell away. All signs point towards the influence of prominent Republicans who characterised the bill as weak and ineffectual. Among them, Donald Trump, who urged Republicans to dismiss the bipartisan bill its entirety. Mr Trump, celebrated its failure and directed the loss at the President: “We crushed…Joe Biden’s disastrous open-borders bill.” Johnson, who suggested that the bill’s mandates of migration did not go far enough, was lauded by Trump.  

As the election looms, it appears this is just the latest consequence of partisan political games

So where does this leave the bill? Democrats in favour of the bipartisan bill have revised the deal by cutting out the immigration reform entirely. By doing this, they have attempted to salvage the necessary aid for Ukraine as well as its funding for Israel and Taiwan. Ironic, given that the bill was initially suggested to create the first comprehensive reform of immigration policy in years. The reduced bill passed through the Senate on 13th February; it’s passage through the House remains uncertain. As the election looms, it appears this is just the latest consequence of partisan political games. 

Image: Jonathan McIntosh via Flickr

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