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Updated Feb 6, 2024, 1:56pm EST
politicsNorth America

Biden assails Trump and urges GOP to ‘show some spine’ on border deal

REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
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U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday assailed former President Donald Trump for opposing a bipartisan agreement on border security and jeopardizing its passage in Congress, while urging Republicans to “show some spine” and vote in favor of the package.

“All indications are this bill won’t even move forward to the Senate floor,” Biden said in remarks from the White House. “Because Donald Trump thinks it’s bad for him politically. … He’d rather weaponize this issue than actually solve it.”

“It looks like they’ve caving,” Biden continued, referring to congressional Republicans. “Frankly, they owe it to the American people to show some spine and do what they know to be right.”

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The Senate bill combining bipartisan border security policy changes with funding for Ukraine, Israel, and countering China is in serious doubt after a growing number of Republicans came out against the measure and Republican leadership in the House said it would not move forward in the lower chamber.

Still, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. said Tuesday that he intends to move forward with a planned vote on the measure. “It’s urgent. We’ve spent months talking and debating,” he said.

The bipartisan border package has faced fierce opposition from Trump, Biden’s chief rival in the 2024 presidential contest. Trump has publicly pressured Republicans to reject the border deal and on Monday denounced it as a “great gift to the Democrats.”

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Biden indicated Tuesday he would blame Republicans for the bill’s failure on the campaign trail if they don’t reverse course to support it. “The American people are going to know why it failed. I’ll be taking this issue to the country,” he said.

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Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La. and other House Republicans have slammed the measure as insufficient to address the issues at the southern border.

“I’m not going to put it on the floor in its current form,” Johnson said Tuesday morning.

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A collapse of the border agreement, on which Republicans insisted to unlock a vote on Ukraine funding, would raise doubts about the path forward for aid for both Israel and Ukraine. Some have already suggested pressing on with the foreign aid part of the package only.

“I’d say let’s move forward with the rest of the supplemental,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas told reporters Tuesday when asked about a Plan B.

The White House promised to veto a standalone bill on $17.6 billion in Israel assistance that the House is voting on Tuesday. Johnson, meanwhile, said the different pieces of the national security supplemental bill needed to be considered separately when asked whether the House would vote on a measure combining Israel and Ukraine aid.

“We’ll talk about the Ukraine measure going forward. That’s not been abandoned, but there’s a lot more work that needs to be done,” Johnson told reporters Tuesday. He added that he wants more answers from the White House about the “end game” for the war in Ukraine and accountability for funding sent to Kyiv.

Biden insisted Tuesday that “doing nothing is not an option” as he made the case to urgently fund Ukraine. He said that opposing the bill would play into the hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin: “That’s what Putin’s betting on.”

However, Biden wouldn’t say whether he would support moving forward with separate measures to support Israel and Ukraine.

“I’m not going to concede that now,” he responded to a reporter’s question. “We need it all. The rest of the world is looking at us.”

Joseph Zeballos-Roig contributed to this report.

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