US Republicans prepare to torpedo bipartisan deal for Ukraine aid

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A bipartisan deal backed by President Joe Biden to deliver billions of dollars in US aid to Ukraine along with stricter immigration policies is facing a widening groundswell of resistance from Republicans in Congress, posing a major threat to its progress on Capitol Hill.

The legislation worth $118bn agreed on Sunday by Democratic and Republican negotiators in the Senate could be the last chance for the Biden administration to secure new military support for Ukraine in its defence against Russia’s invasion — alongside other national security goals including aid to Israel and Taiwan.

It also marks a rare compromise on efforts to curb immigration through the US border with Mexico, including restrictions on asylum, which has been a rallying cry for Republicans and a political liability for Democrats throughout Biden’s presidency.

But the bipartisan dealmaking has been trashed by Donald Trump in recent weeks — and the frontrunner for this year’s Republican White House nomination moved to torpedo the latest breakthrough again on Monday, just days ahead of a planned vote on the agreement in the Senate.

“This Bill is a great gift to the Democrats, and a Death Wish for The Republican Party,” the former president wrote on social media on Monday. “It takes the HORRIBLE JOB the Democrats have done on Immigration and the Border, absolves them, and puts it all squarely on the shoulders of Republicans. Don’t be STUPID!!!”

Trump, a foreign affairs isolationist, has treated the immigration crisis on the southern border as an opportunity to attack Biden as he steps up his push to win back the White House.

Within a few hours of Trump’s post, the leading Republicans in the House of Representatives — which also must approve the legislation for it to become law — issued a joint statement saying “any consideration of this Senate bill in its current form is a waste of time”.

“It is DEAD on arrival in the House,” they added.

The bill’s first legislative obstacle will be in the Senate, with a vote expected on Wednesday that would require the support of 60 of the chamber’s 100 senators.

At least 12 of the 49 Republican senators in total would have to back the bill for it to move forward as some Democrats are also expected to vote against it because they consider the border measures too draconian.

But the criticism from some Republican lawmakers has been brutal — and appears to doom its prospects.

Mike Lee, a Utah senator, called it “a betrayal of the American people” on X. Even some Republican senators close to the party leadership, which endorsed the deal, were wavering or expressing outright opposition.

“Now that I have seen the text, I have questions and serious concerns,” said John Cornyn, the Texas Republican senator who had previously encouraged the negotiations. Katie Britt, a Republican senator from Alabama, said the bill “would not stop President Biden from continuing his radical mass migration agenda”.

By late on Monday, at least 19 Republican Senators had declared they would vote against the bill, meaning it would fall at the first hurdle — another sign of the growing number and influence of isolationist hardliners on Capitol Hill as Trump extends his dominance over the party.

The expected failure of the bill also marks the latest blow to traditional Republican foreign policy hawks and political pragmatists who backed the bipartisan breakthrough, including Mitch McConnell, the party’s Senate leader. His future as leader could now be in jeopardy.

McConnell on Monday appealed for Republicans to come around and back a package that would help the US and its allies “regain the upper hand” over an “emerging axis of authoritarians” in Moscow, Beijing and Tehran.

“Make no mistake: the gauntlet has been thrown. And America needs to pick it up,” he said.

Democrats and the White House have also not given up hope the deal can at least pass the Senate.

“The $64,000 question now is whether or not senators can drown out the outside noise, drown out people like Donald Trump who want chaos, and do the right thing for America,” Chuck Schumer, the Democratic senate majority leader, said on Monday afternoon.

During a trip to Nevada on Monday, Biden was asked how the bill would pass the upper chamber. “With 60 votes, and you’re gonna watch,” the president responded.

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