Republican senators march out of briefing on Ukraine and Israel, claiming the administration is refusing to engage on border security issues
A classified briefing on the national security supplemental package went south on Tuesday due to a fight over the border, prompting normally level-headed GOP lawmakers to storm out of the meeting on Ukraine and Israel early.
The Tuesday briefing, which featured Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. C.Q. Brown, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, was meant to focus on Democrats’ pitch for $111 billion in aid to Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and the southern border. But it hit a snag before it even got started when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who was supposed to appear via teleconference in, pulled out.
About 40 minutes into the briefing, several Republicans left the classified session fuming. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) — a defense hawk and Ukraine aid supporter — complained to reporters that the administration was offering bland, repetitious answers on Ukraine and not answering Republican questions about the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Many of us just walked out, we’ve had it, we’ve had it,” Fischer, a senior Senate Armed Services Committee member, told reporters. “When you have Deb Fischer walking out, you have a problem.”
Senate Intelligence Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) conceded: “Feelings were running high.”
The fact that the frustrations extended beyond the usual critics of additional aid to Ukraine and Israel shows how poorly the classified briefing went down among Republicans, further endangering hopes of approving more international aid to those countries and Taiwan before the end of the year.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer argued that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell “hijacked” the meeting by calling on Sen. James Lankford (Okla.), the lead GOP negotiator on border talks, to discuss the border.
“I understand our Republican colleagues are under tremendous pressure with the vote we’re going to have,” Schumer told reporters.
Schumer plans to hold an initial vote Wednesday on the supplemental, which Republicans are widely expected to block.
“They’re in a box. They don’t know what to do,” Schumer said. “Hopefully they’ll come to a conclusion that the best thing to do is for them to offer an amendment and try to get 11 Democratic votes, get 60.”
“We’ll see how it works out,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who chairs the Appropriations panel on defense. “I mean, hopefully, everybody will come together because the aid, particularly for Ukraine, is very, very time-sensitive. And if we screw up on this, there’ll be people’s lives at stake in Europe, I think, within a year or so.”
Fischer made clear Republicans would be galvanized around their border demands no matter what arguments the administration presented on Ukraine and Israel.
“When the border was brought up … there was spirited discussion, and I don’t think Democrats realized there will be no movement on a supplemental unless we have policy changes on the border, our own border,” Fischer said.
“We don’t know who’s coming into this country, and we’re supposed to tell Americans that the United States can’t balance being a leader in the world … and yet we’re not able to protect our own country at the southern border?” she said. “That is baloney.”
Added Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), the second-highest Republican in the chamber: “They didn’t have answers to some of the questions our members had, specifically about the broad national security crisis we face including at the border. They didn’t want to respond to that.”
Even some of the most ardent GOP backers of additional aid to Ukraine left the briefing upset.
“Their clear lack of preparedness to discuss and clear apprehension to utter a word as it pertains to border security policy was not just an oversight,” said Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), a defense hawk. “It was intentional.”
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) called the briefing “ridiculous,” “unserious” and offering no new information to senators.
“Chuck Schumer is doing everything he can to flush this whole thing down the drain,” he said. “Keeping the southern border wide open is so important to him he’s willing to kill the supplemental to do it. And that’s exactly what he’s gonna do.”
McConnell didn’t respond to reporters’ questions following the briefing. It came mere hours after Schumer made his offer of a border security amendment to the supplemental package during a weekly press availability — albeit to a cool immediate reaction from Republicans.
Go to Source