Senate Republicans reject Biden’s call to urgently approve Ukraine aid

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(WASHINGTON) — Hours after President Joe Biden on Wednesday called on Congress to urgently approve a stalled package of aid to Ukraine, Republicans blocked a key Senate procedural vote over demands for new restrictions to bolster U.S. border security.

Biden called it “stunning” that Congress has taken as long as it has to pass his request for $61 billion in additional funding for Ukraine, laying out a stark warning of what could happen if more funds are not approved, and saying Republicans will give Russian President Vladimir Putin “the greatest gift he could hope for” if the U.S. ends its global leadership now.

“The Congress has to uphold the national security needs of the United States and quite frankly, of our partners as well,” Biden said, speaking from the White House.

“This cannot wait,” he said, saying lawmakers had to act before the holiday recess and money runs out at the end of the year.

“Republicans in Congress are willing to give [Russian President Vladimir] Putin the greatest gift he could hope for, and abandon our global leadership, not just Ukraine, but beyond that,” he said.

“Make no mistake, today’s vote is going to be long remembered. History is going to judge harshly those who turn their back on freedom’s cause — because we can’t let Putin win. Say it again. We can’t let Putin win,” he said.

But Biden’s call did no good — as a vote to move forward on the measure failed 49-51. It needed 60 votes to advance.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called it a “sad night in the history of our country.”

Biden reminded Americans of the atrocities Russia has allegedly carried out so far, including the targeting of civilians, kidnapping of children and attacks on their electrical grid last winter so they’d be without heat and electricity.

He said this is more than just what could happen in the immediate future, but the long run. Biden warned of U.S. troops possibly joining the fight if Putin were to take over Ukraine and invade a NATO ally, which would trigger Article 5 in which an attack on one NATO member is consider an attack on all.

“If Putin attacks a NATO ally, if he keeps going, and then he attacks a NATO ally, when we’ve committed as a NATO member, so we defend every inch of NATO territory, then we’ll have something that we don’t seek and that we don’t have today: American troops fighting Russian troops. American troops fighting Russian troops, if he moves into other parts of NATO,” he said.

The president said, “I’m not prepared to walk away, and I don’t think the American people are either.”

The delay comes amid Republican demands for what he called far-right border policies to be included in the supplemental package. Biden accused Republicans of “playing chicken with our national security” by “holding Ukraine’s funding hostage to their extreme partisan border policies.”

He said he’s “willing to do significantly more” to change border policy, including billions of dollars for border agents, immigration judges and asylum officers, but said the GOP is unwilling to compromise.

“This has to be a negotiation. Republicans think they get everything they want, without any bipartisan compromise. That’s not the answer. That’s not the answer. And now they’re willing to literally kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield. And damage our national security in the process,” Biden said.

Biden said he’s already laid out with Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford and other GOP senators what he’s willing to compromise on, saying it’s “significantly more,” and includes “substantive changes,” though claimed the GOP are “unwilling to do it.”

He called on Congress to “do something and do the right thing to stand with the people in Ukraine.”

“We’re the reason Putin has not totally overrun Ukraine and move beyond that,” he said. “This is critical. Petty partisan, angry politics can’t get in the way of our responsibility as a leading nation in the world. And literally the entire world is watching.”

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