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28 Feb, 2024 02:57

US border a higher priority than Ukraine – Republican leader

The House speaker faces renewed pressure from Democrats to approve a vote on $60 billion in military assistance for Kiev
US border a higher priority than Ukraine – Republican leader

Congress will not pass a new aid package for Ukraine without reforms to US immigration policy, House Speaker Mike Johnson has said, arguing that America’s own security takes priority over Kiev's conflict with Russia.

Speaking after a contentious meeting with President Joe Biden and congressional leaders earlier on Tuesday, Johnson insisted that House Republicans would not budge on the foreign aid if Democrats did not compromise on the border.

GOP lawmakers are “actively pursuing and investigating all the various options” for the Ukraine legislation, but “The first priority of the country is our border and making sure it’s secure,” Johnson told reporters.

The Republican speaker has faced increased pressure from congressional Democrats, the White House and even fellow GOP members in the Senate over the aid bill, with President Biden warning that the “consequences of inaction every day in Ukraine are dire” ahead of his meeting with Johnson.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who attended the sit-down with Biden, also said he urged Johnson to “get it done” and “do the right thing,” adding that “history is looking over your shoulder.” He described the discussion around the Ukraine bill as “intense,” stating “Everyone in that room was telling Speaker Johnson how vital” the military assistance was.

While the Senate previously passed a $95 billion aid package – including $60 billion for Kiev in addition to funding for Israel and Taiwan – House Republicans have refused to back companion legislation unless it includes significant reforms at the US-Mexico border. Citing a surge in illegal immigration since Biden took office in 2021, Johnson called the situation a “catastrophe” and stressed that the White House could “take executive authority right now, today, to change that.”

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly urged for additional aid, as US assistance has waned following a lackluster summer counteroffensive. President Vladimir Zelensky made his latest appeal last week during a meeting with Schumer and other Democrats, where he reportedly warned that Kiev would “surely lose the war” without further cash injections from Washington.