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Three Big Things

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  • Republicans Block Ukraine Aid Bill, Putting New Pressure on Border Talks

    President Biden’s push to pass tens of billions in new aid for Ukraine stalled in the Senate on Wednesday, but the setback could inject new urgency into bipartisan talks over border-security measures that Republicans have demanded as a condition for their support.  

    Democrats’ sweeping foreign-aid measure providing $110.5 billion for Ukraine, Israel and other global hot spots was blocked by Republicans in an initial procedural vote. Forty-nine senators backed the measure and 51 were against, falling short of the 60-vote threshold needed to advance.

    In remarks just ahead the vote, Biden warned that failure by Congress to pass new aid for Ukraine could ultimately lead the U.S. into direct conflict with Russia if it won and continued to march westward. He said the administration is willing to work with Republicans to do “significantly more” on border security to get a deal done while also chiding GOP lawmakers. 

    “Republicans think they get everything they want, without any bipartisan compromise. That’s not the answer,” Biden said. He accused them of “playing chicken with our national security.”

    The White House has warned that the U.S. will be unable to continue providing weapons and equipment to Ukraine if no additional funding is approved by the end of the year.

    The defeat on the Senate floor marked a major public blow for backers of Ukraine aid and raised fears that there isn’t enough political will in Congress to pass more assistance, which has topped $100 billion since the war began. But its failure also drew clearer lines on where both parties stand and could set the stage for several weeks of breakneck talks to reach a compromise before Christmas.

    “All of our adversaries are closely watching. Let us do the right thing and move forward,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.). He has called the GOP position “hostage taking.”

    The funds earmarked for Ukraine include nearly $12 billion to keep Kyiv’s government afloat, $15 billion in military-support activities and $2.3 billion for benefits for Ukrainian refugees. The bill also includes more than $14 billion for Israel, including for missile-defense systems, and money to bolster the Indo-Pacific, which the U.S. sees as critical to providing a safeguard for Taiwan against any potential threat from China. 

    Republicans said they opposed the national-security package because it omits strict new changes related to asylum and other policies they see as essential to cutting down on illegal border crossings. 

    “As we’ve said for weeks, legislation that doesn’t include policy changes to secure our borders will not pass the Senate,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), who has been one of the most ardent supporters of Ukraine.

    Republicans and Democrats have been discussing a change to tighten the initial asylum screening standard, but GOP lawmakers have said that change alone isn’t enough. They have broadened their demands to include a massive expansion of immigration detention for asylum seekers, the ability to send asylum seekers to other countries the U.S. deems are safe and limits on an immigration status known as humanitarian parole. The Biden administration has used parole expansively to let in hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Ukraine war and asylum seekers at the border who sign up in advance.

    Sen. James Lankford (R., Okla.), a lead negotiator, said he believed Biden’s comments were helpful as they signaled Democrats were ready to find a middle ground. Lankford said he took the remarks as the president saying, “Let’s actually finish this deal, let’s actually get a result.”

    Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said Republicans needed to drop what he sees as unreasonable demands. If “Republicans are going to move, and we’re going to move, then let’s sit down and talk,” he said.

    Lawmakers of both parties are warning that, without a way to break the deadlock, Ukraine would be in peril, touching off a domino effect of consequences for the western world.

    Any legislation must also clear the GOP-led House, with Speaker Mike Johnson (R., La.) telling the White House this week that additional money for Ukraine would depend on “enactment of transformative change to our nation’s border security laws.” He faces skepticism from many rank-and-file Republicans, who have soured on aid to the country, and has told Democrats that no Ukraine funding is possible without border concessions. 

    For Ukraine, the stakes are enormous. The campaign to regain land lost to Russia, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has promised to continue, is heavily reliant on the provision of U.S. arms and equipment, as well as the financial aid from the U.S. and other Western allies that keeps Ukraine’s economy afloat.

    Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba expressed concern Wednesday that support for his country was tangled up in domestic U.S. disputes. Ukraine, meanwhile, has no choice but to continue fighting, regardless of the level of support, he said.

    “Ukraine will not be forced into making concessions. There is too much at stake,” Kuleba said. “If we have $100 to fight, we will fight with $100. If we have $1 in our pocket, we will still keep fighting.”

    Kyiv says deadlock in the U.S. over the provision of further military aid has made it far more difficult for it to resist recent Russian attacks. Soldiers fighting on the front lines in Donbas say they are rationing artillery shells in a way that makes it difficult to hobble Russian units bearing down on them

    If aid dries up completely, Ukrainian officials say, they will be unable to continue their military campaign to retake lost land and may be unable to hold back Russian units supported by a far larger country with superior reserves of manpower.

    Back in the U.S., Republicans said that Democrats haven’t demonstrated seriousness about addressing GOP concerns about the border with Mexico. Illegal border crossings have again risen to above 8,000 a day, some of the highest daily numbers ever recorded. Migration has become a pressing issue for Democrats as well as Republicans because many of the migrants have been heading, either on buses sent by Texas or on their own, to Democratic-led cities. 

    On Tuesday, tensions ratcheted up at a closed-door classified briefing called by Schumer to highlight the risks to Ukraine of congressional inaction. Republicans argued with Schumer over the border, mangling a briefing that Democrats had intended to keep centered on Kyiv, with Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) taking a leading role in directing complaints to Schumer, according to a person familiar with the matter. A group of Republicans walked out to protest the contours of the briefing before it was over.

    Zelensky had been scheduled to speak by video during the meeting, but his appearance was canceled. “It’s a war, so the situation can change,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov told Fox News. He said Zelensky would “do it whenever it would be possible next time.”

    Meanwhile, Russia has reoriented its economy to sustain the war, greatly increasing military spending at the expense of civilian production. Kyiv and many European governments believe Russian President Vladimir Putin is waiting to see who wins the U.S. presidential election, in the expectation that former President Donald Trump, currently the GOP front-runner for president, would cut back or end aid for Ukraine.

    “Just imagine that the aid stops tomorrow. It will live for a week, when they run out of ammunition,” Putin said in October.

    European officials, like their U.S. counterparts, are seeking ways to carve out emergency military and financial lifelines to Ukraine. Until recently, European Union leaders were also expected to approve a 50-billion-euro four-year economic assistance package. However, in recent days, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has threatened to veto fresh money or support for Kyiv when leaders meet next week.


    Republicans Block Ukraine Aid Bill, Putting New Pressure on Border Talks - WSJ

  • Carl will debate Moore in Daphne

    Incumbent District 1 U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl, R-Mobile, announced Wednesday he will debate challenger U.S. Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, in Daphne in January, saying the voters deserve “a workhorse, not a show horse.”

    Carl boasted his support for law enforcement and securing the southern border, and his ongoing fight against “liberals who want to fundamentally change our way of life” in a statement.

    READ MORE: Carl will debate Moore in Daphne | News | lagniappemobile.com

  • Britt endorses Trump

    U.S. Sen. Katie Britt is endorsing Donald Trump for president, saying he’s the best choice to protect the U.S. economy and national security.

    “Results matter – and the results of (Trump’s) strong leadership as the 45th President of the United States are clear for all to see,” Britt wrote in an opinion column published in Yellowhammer News. “These past three years have felt like an eternity, but I’m sure you recall how much better off we were under the Trump Administration.

    Think back – do you remember $2.00/gallon gas? A carton of eggs for $1.40 and a gallon of milk for $2.90? The average family’s real income rising by $6,000? That was President Trump’s policies at work.

    “… For our future – for the ability of the next generation to fulfill the promise that is the American Dream – it’s time to ensure President Biden only gets one term. Now, let’s come together and move forward towards November 2024.”

    Britt’s endorsement of the former president comes the same day four other GOP presidential hopefuls take the stage in the fourth primary debate at Britt’s alma mater, the University of Alabama. 

    As with the first three, Trump is skipping this debate. He holds a 50-point lead over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, according to recent polling by NewsNation, which is airing and moderating tonight’s debate.

    U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville and the state’s Republican congressmen endorsed Trump in August, the same day he headlined a GOP event in Montgomery.

    Trump endorsed Britt in her 2022 Senate bid after previously backing her GOP opponent and former congressman Mo Brooks. Trump backed away from Brooks, and digs at Britt, when polling showed Britt gaining momentum.

    Trump has multiple, ongoing legal fights, including the criminal case that accuses him of trying to interfere with the 2020 election that he lost. That trial begins in Washington March 4.

    The 2024 presidential election cycle officially begins Jan. 15 with Iowa’s caucus. The Alabama primaries are March 5. 

    Read the rest of the story: Britt endorses Trump - Alabama Daily News (aldailynews.com)

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