How We Got Here
A similar funding bill was proposed shortly after the onset of the Israel-Hamas War by President Joe Biden. The president sought to bundle Ukraine aid, Israel aid, and border funding into a single bill that would cost over $100 billion.
Republicans in both chambers have been fighting with Democrats for months over a single proposal. Republican leadership argued that if Democrats wanted to bundle all three funding plans together, then tougher border provisions were needed.
As the two parties engaged in negotiations, Republicans accused their counterparts of allocating border funding in the wrong areas. Democrats wanted to allocate more funds towards the processing of crossing migrants and asylum claims. On the other hand, Republicans wanted to fund measures that would increase security on the border with the objective of reducing crossings.
While negotiations on a final bill have continued, the wars in the Middle East and Ukraine have raged on. Unable to get funding approved for the Israeli war effort, President Biden has used executive authority to sell tank ammunition to Israel. This emergency authority allows him to bypass Congressional approval.
Ukraine last received an aid package from Washington in December, worth $250 million. Since then, the country has continued to use up its dwindling artillery ammunition stocks, particularly around Bakhmut and Avdiivka. The United States has been a major artillery shell supplier to Ukraine since the invasion began. According to senior Ukrainian officials, the country can currently barely afford to fire 2,000 shells a day. The Russians can fire upwards of 6,000 as they continue their offensive actions in the Donbas.
Contents of the Senate Deal
In its current form, the bill costs $118.2 billion. It contains $60 billion worth of military aid to Ukraine, $14.1 billion worth of military aid for Israel, and $20 billion for issues relating to the U.S.-Mexico border. The bill also contains other funds, including $2.44 billion for U.S. military operations in the Middle East, $4.83 billion to support allies in the Indo-Pacific region, and $10 billion in humanitarian aid for those “caught in conflict zones around the globe.”
If passed, the bill would grant the Department of Homeland Security the authority to limit border crossings if the daily average of migrant encounters reaches 4,000 over the course of a week. It would also mandate that the department invoke that authority if migrant encounters reach an average of 5,000 in that same time span. The mandatory crossing limit would also automatically kick in if there are 8,500 crossings on a single day. However, there are limits to how many days that authority can be used. By the third calendar year of the bill being in effect, for example, the president can only utilize the authority for half of the calendar year.
The Senate is supposed to vote on the negotiated bill this week, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). However, it is not clear if the bill has enough support in the chamber to pass. Senator John Thune (R-SD) said as much on CNN recently. Reports also claim that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has urged his colleagues behind closed doors to block the bill.
On Sunday night, Representative Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana, said that the proposed bill would not be brought to a vote in the House. Scalise currently serves as House Majority Leader, and while the power to bring bills to the floor lies with House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), it appears that the two see eye-to-eye on this matter.
Johnson has already declared that any bill negotiated between the Senate and the White House would be “dead on arrival” in the House. Instead, on Tuesday night, the House voted on a separate aid package for Israel totaling $17.6 billion. That bill did not include funding for Ukraine or the border. It did not receive enough votes to move on to the Senate. Biden has publicly stated that he will veto a standalone Israel package if it reaches his desk.
At this point, the government still appears to be a long way away from drafting a bill that will receive enough support to pass both chambers. Former President Donald Trump’s attempt to influence the actions of Senate Republicans only prolongs the process. With the issue of immigration set to be a major topic of the 2024 election, both parties have the incentive to make the fewest concessions that are politically feasible.