President Joe Biden has proposed an unusual swap to unblock the multibillion-dollar military aid package for Ukraine that has been blocked by Senate Republicans.
In response to Republicans’ refusal to include the $11 billion in aid in the budget, Biden has offered changes to immigration policy as a quid pro quo.
A surprising stance
The Republicans’ stance to block aid to Ukraine has been described by Biden as “astonishing” and “a gift” to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Biden has expressed concern that this refusal could jeopardize national security and leave Ukraine vulnerable on the battlefield.
To break the deadlock, Biden has made it clear that he is willing to make significant concessions on migration policy.
A broken border system
Biden acknowledges that the border system is broken and is willing to change it. While he has not mentioned specific measures, it is clear that Republicans are seeking more restrictions on what they consider “open-door policies” at the border.
Biden’s proposal to make changes to immigration policy is a sign that he is willing to compromise to get the Ukraine aid package passed by Congress.
Urgency in negotiations
Both Senate Democrats and Republicans recognize the urgency of reaching a deal. With time running out before the year-end recess, there is a need to act quickly.
The direct involvement of President Biden, as well as Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, could be helpful in moving negotiations forward. McConnell, despite being a supporter of aid to Ukraine, has joined Republicans demanding changes to border policies.
Obstacles in negotiations
Although an agreement has been reached to raise the standard for entry into the asylum system, there are still disagreements over the ‘humanitarian parole’ program, which allows temporary admission of immigrants.
Republicans argue that the record increase in migrants crossing the southern border poses a threat to national security and that they cannot justify sending billions of dollars to other countries without addressing the situation at the internal border.
The President’s and McConnell’s Involvement
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, has stressed the importance of Biden and McConnell’s involvement in the negotiations. Their experience in dealing with difficult issues could be key to reaching a deal.
However, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has expressed skepticism and said the Senate talks may not be able to negotiate the substantive policy changes Republicans want.
Criticism and risks
Biden’s proposal to get directly involved in the negotiations carries political risk. Immigrant advocates and some Democratic senators have expressed concern about the possibility of restricting the asylum system.
Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California, has warned that he will be watching what Biden agrees to on border security.
Obstacles in the House of Representatives
Even if a deal is reached in the Senate, any proposal will face significant hurdles in the House. Far-right conservatives have vowed to block any aid package that does not conform to their tough border and immigration policies.
House Speaker Mike Johnson has made it clear that he will not support the relief package unless it conforms to HR2, a bill that would restructure the immigration system with conservative priorities.
Biden’s proposed exchange of immigration restrictions in exchange for aid to Ukraine is an attempt to break the deadlock in the Senate. While there are obstacles and disagreements in the negotiations, the direct involvement of the president and McConnell could help move toward a deal.
However, any proposal will face even more hurdles in the House of Representatives, where far-right conservatives have vowed to block any aid package that does not conform to their border and immigration policies.
The final outcome of these negotiations and their impact on national security and the immigration situation are yet to be determined.