A classified meeting on Ukraine aid on Tuesday turned into a heated debate over border security. The altercation highlights the deepening stalemate in the Senate over the inclusion of stricter immigration policies in the aid package.
A Divisive Shift in Focus
The tension in the briefing room was palpable as Republican senators, poised to reject a substantial national security package exceeding $100 billion, demanded significant changes in border policy.
This stance throws into question the passage of the Ukraine aid this year. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer offered a candid account of the proceedings. He noted that the shift in focus was initiated by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who redirected a question on Ukraine to GOP Sen.
James Lankford of Oklahoma, prompting a discussion on border issues instead. Schumer expressed frustration, stating, "It was immediately hijacked by Leader McConnell... Then when I brought up the fact that they could do an amendment and have the ability to get something done on border, they got stuck ...
they didn’t like it." Adding to the turmoil, Schumer mentioned a senator's disrespectful outburst towards a general during the briefing. According to a source, the vocal senator was Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a Republican.
When questioned, Cotton denied Schumer's accusation that Republicans were injecting border security into the debate, asserting that it was President Joe Biden who included border provisions in the supplemental bill. Cotton's frustration was evident as he said, "He had the misfortune of spreading those lies right after someone handed me a microphone."
Briefing Fallout: Accusations and Walkouts
The briefing, intended to discuss Ukraine aid, was criticized by GOP senators as ineffective.
They lamented that the briefers did not provide new or non-public information, leading some to leave the session early. Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota labeled the meeting a waste of time, accusing Democrats of prioritizing open borders over support for Ukraine and Israel.
Mitt Romney of Utah echoed these sentiments, stressing the need for Democrats to acknowledge the necessity of addressing the border situation as part of the aid package deal. The frustration among Republicans was evident as they expressed their willingness to walk out of discussions that do not address their concerns.
This episode underscores the growing divide in Congress, where debates over foreign aid are increasingly intertwined with domestic policy issues like immigration. As both sides hold firm to their stances, the path forward for the Ukraine aid package remains uncertain.