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Washington Wednesday: Not arriving in time for Christmas


WORLD Radio - Washington Wednesday: Not arriving in time for Christmas

The Senate extends its session to try to land a foreign aid and border security deal

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Wednesday the 20th of December, 2023.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. It’s time for Washington Wednesday.

Last week, Members of the House of Representatives left Washington for their Christmas vacations. But Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had other plans for the Senate.

CHUCK SCHUMER: If we believe something is important and urgent, we should stay and get the job done. That is certainly the case with the supplemental.

REICHARD: The audio from C-SPAN. The “supplemental” he’s referring to is a bill that would authorize spending on a variety of things, including aid to Ukraine and Israel. Senate Republicans have said they’ll only go along with the plan if it includes policy changes to border security. South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds:

MIKE ROUNDS: I'm a firm believer that we should be funding Ukraine, we should be funding Israel, we should be taking care of the issues in the Pacific Rim region. But we're going to start with finally providing security at our southern border. And that that is not a negotiable issue in this particular case.

EICHER: Is it possible to negotiate a deal in time for Christmas, or will the Senate put it off until next year.

Joining us now to discuss it is Eric Teetsel, VP of government relations at the Heritage Foundation. He’s a former Senate chief of staff, and he writes for WORLD Opinions.

REICHARD: Good morning, Eric, welcome.

ERIC TEETSEL: Hi, Mary, thank you so much for having me.

REICHARD: Eric, what do you make of the talks around border security and immigration so far?

TEETSEL: Woof, here we are into the year, and Congress is doing what Congress tends to do, which is wait until the very last minute to try to shove through a bunch of the priorities that they ought to have been working on all year long. This year, unlike most years, it's the supplemental that includes border security. So here we are.

REICHARD: Who are the main players in all this? Who is negotiating?

TEETSEL: Right, so the players here are the White House on the one hand, and then you have the Senate, where Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats are negotiating over a bill. And then you have the House, and the house is not involved in the negotiations directly. However, obviously, in order to pass a bill, it's going to have to get through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. And so a lot of the dialogue surrounds the dynamic between the House and the Senate, and Senate Republicans, led by Senator Jim Lankford from Oklahoma, are sort of operating on the basis of that understanding that this may not be entirely about what we want directly, but we're aware of what our colleagues over on the House side are going to demand.

REICHARD: Our newsfeeds are flooded with footage from border checkpoints like Eagle Pass, Texas, where the U.S. has now suspended rail service to respond to yet another migrant surge. How did we get to this point?

TEETSEL: It's a complete and total catastrophe at the border. And it's the result of, of policy choices and management. There have been no laws that were passed or undone between the end of the last presidency under President Trump and the Biden presidency here three years in. What's changed is the people who are in charge of implementing those laws and enforcing them, and the Biden administration has chosen to pursue policies that encourage and incentivize immigration, illegal immigration, the abuse of our amnesty policies, and so on and so forth. And that has resulted in month over a month over month record after record after record of illegal border crossings and people showing up at the border claiming amnesty and so on and so forth.

REICHARD: And how is all this tied to aid for Ukraine?

TEETSEL: Where to start? So there's a process under which the federal government is supposed to decide how it's going to spend its money every year, you have a budget, and that's sort of the policy side. And then you have an appropriations process. And that's where they figure out how they're going to pay for the policies that were included in the budget. And there are 12 appropriations bills, each of which is supposed to go individually through this entire legislative process for consideration, and if you get funded, then you get to move forward. That's never how it works, because Congress is dysfunctional and entirely broken. And so this year, they've decided to use something called a supplemental funding request. So that's a request for federal spending that occurs entirely outside and in addition to the standard appropriations process. And in this supplemental request, the Biden administration included many things, including more than $60 billion for Ukraine, about $14 billion for Israel, and border security, and additional money for things like defense needs in the Indo Pacific region. Now, all of that could have been done through the standard appropriations process. And you could argue that Israel's an actual emergency, no one saw October 7 coming and so maybe it's reasonable to do a supplemental request on that one. But on all these other issues, all of this should have been done through the standard process. They chose not to, and instead to go this route, and they chose to tie them all together because some of these items couldn't pass on their own, or it'd be much more difficult to pass them on their own. The House, for example, has already passed a border security bill. It's called HR-2. The Senate has declined to even bother considering it. The House has also passed Israel aid, and the Senate has declined to do anything with that bill. The reason is that they want Ukraine money, and they believe that the only way to get the Ukraine money that they want is to tie it to things that they see being other priorities like Israel. So it's just one big negotiating trick, and it's certainly not working.

REICHARD: Well, let's talk about the presidential election just for a minute. Back in 2020, then-candidate Joe Biden campaigned on halting construction of a border wall while also promising immigration reforms. He’s said as president that he may return to a Trump-era policy to expel asylum seekers. Democrats are accusing him of going back on his word. Yet a new poll released this week shows only 38 percent of registered voters approve of Biden’s immigration positions. A majority of respondents said they aligned more with Trump’s policies. So what is the politically expedient move for President Biden as he seeks reelection?

TEETSEL: Yeah, no doubt the American people are seeing what's happening on their TV screens and are completely dissatisfied. And it feeds into a broader narrative about President Biden and his administration, the question of whether this is a guy who's up to the task of governing the country. People are looking at the economy, nobody can afford gas or groceries or rent, inflation is at record highs, and you have a mess at the border, and you have our strongest ally in Israel suffering under these attacks, the war in Ukraine, people feel like things are just sort of falling apart. And so it is certainly in the administration's interest to demonstrate that it can govern. Now, there are some problems with that. One is it's been three years, and I think Republicans and others rightly say, you had three years to deal with a very legitimate problem, why should we bail you out now on the eve of a presidential election cycle, when the American people are finally paying attention? And they reasonably believe that the White House will pass a bill and sign it and that there will suddenly be all of these new laws and authorities that they will simply choose to ignore as they've ignored the law to date. And so there's a question as to whether passing a bill even means anything given an administration that has repeatedly chosen simply to ignore or not enforce the law. So you get a political benefit without actually solving the problem. Why would you do that? For some Republicans, the answer is well, we do believe that the Biden administration will ignore these laws, they will use it as a headline without actually changing anything, but if there's a Republican president to come in, in 2024, then those laws will be in place and that person can use them to actually do something to fix the border. That's probably the main motivator for the Republicans who are currently engaged in in these negotiations.

REICHARD: Eric Teetsel is vice president of government relations at the Heritage Foundation and a contributor to World Opinions. Eric, thank you for joining us.

TEETSEL: Thank you for having me.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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