Feb 4, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Senate releases new $118 billion package for Ukraine, Israel, border

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) walks with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (L) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) as he arrives at the U.S. Capitol to meet with Congressional leadership

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) walks with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (L) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY). Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Senate appropriations committee released on Sunday the text of their sweeping $118.3 billion emergency spending package, which combines foreign aid with restrictive policy changes for the U.S.-Mexico border.

Why it matters: The bill's fate is highly uncertain, with the package held up for months as a bipartisan group of senators hashed out a border deal to appease Republicans. An initial vote is expected this week.

  • Republicans are divided over whether to support additional aid for Ukraine and whether the newly negotiated border measures go far enough to stop illegal border crossings.
  • Some progressive Democrats are expected to vote against what would be one of the most restrictive border bills of the century.
  • Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) is undermining the effort further by planning a vote on an Israel-only aid package.

What to watch: Former President Trump and Johnson all but killed the bill's chances before it was finished being written.

  • Johnson has called the deal "dead-on-arrival" in the House, and repeatedly criticized what he has heard about the deal.
  • "The devil's in the details," Johnson told Fox Business on Friday. "We'll check it out. I'm not prejudging anything."
  • Senate Republicans and staff will study the language closely — checking that all the "may"s and "shall"s create tough enough measures for them to get behind.

By the numbers: The package includes $60 billion for supporting Ukraine, $14 billion for Israel and $4.8 billion for the Indo-Pacific.

  • An additional $10 billion is earmarked for humanitarian assistance for civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, Ukraine and other populations.
  • Nearly $20 billion of the funds for Ukraine would go toward replenishing U.S. military weapons and equipment.
  • The cost of the border policy changes comes to $20 billion for transportation for deportation, shelters, more than 4,000 new asylum officers, more border agents, anti-fentanyl trafficking efforts and other resources.

Zoom in: The funding will cover significant asylum and border policy changes over three years.

  • It raises the standard for the first step of the asylum process, which could lead to more migrants being removed from the U.S. faster.
  • It requires all asylum seekers be detained or placed in tracking programs until they pass that initial interview or are granted asylum in what would be an expedited 6 month process, in total.
  • Most notably, the package includes emergency authority to automatically turn back illegal border crossers to Mexico — with no guarantee of seeking asylum — when the weekly average for encounters reaches 4,000 a day. The emergency action would be required at 5,000 encounters a day.

Zoom out: The bill also included a pathway to permanent status for Afghans evacuated and brought to the U.S. under humanitarian parole.

  • It also adds another 250,000 work and family-based immigrant visas for the next five fiscal years.
  • It also protects from deportation the children of H-1B visa holders who come to the country legally, but often "age out" by turning 18 before they are able to receive a green card because of long backlogs.

Go deeper: Read the bill text here.

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