House Republicans Continue Stall On Aid To Ukraine Pushing Immigration Debate Off For Political Reasons

Heather Cox Richardson

Last night, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), and House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) announced they have agreed to another continuing resolution that will fund the government until March 1 and March 8. Schumer said he will begin the process of passing the continuing resolution when the Senate reconvenes tomorrow. 

The first part of the current continuing resolution that funds the government will run out Friday, and Schumer warned that “[t]o avoid a shutdown, it will take bipartisan cooperation in the Senate and the House to quickly pass the CR and send it to the President’s desk before Friday’s funding deadline.” 

Schumer is sending a message to the House, since far-right Republican extremists there threw former House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) out of the speakership for adhering to the budget spending agreement he made with President Joe Biden in June 2023. Now Johnson has agreed to what is essentially the same deal.

It is unclear what actions the funding measure will prompt in the House. According to Marianna Sotomayor and Leigh Ann Caldwell in the Washington Post yesterday, extremist Republicans remain angry enough at their inability to dictate terms to the government that they are, once again, threatening to halt the House’s business in protest, to challenge Johnson’s speakership, and/or to shut down the government. At the same time, other Republicans are angry that Johnson appears to be caving to the extremists, who have made the House a bit of a laughingstock as they made it almost impossible last year for the House to get anything done. More obstruction, another speakership fight, or a government shutdown would hurt the Republicans’ image even more.

Jake Sherman of Punchbowl Newsreported that Johnson told the House conference that with Kentucky representative Hal Rogers hospitalized after a car accident on Wednesday, and Louisiana representative Steve Scalise out of Congress until February for a stem cell transplant to treat his blood cancer, the Republican majority is so slim there isn’t time for anything other than a continuing resolution. 

Perhaps to appease the extremists, on the same call, Sherman reported, Johnson told the conference that the bipartisan immigration measure being negotiated in the Senate was “DOA in House.” House Republicans have insisted they will not pass additional funding for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan without a measure addressing the border. At the same time, they have also refused Biden’s offer to negotiate, clearly trying to preserve the immigration issue to whip up voters before the 2024 election. Johnson told his conference that Congress “can’t solve [the] border until Trump is elected or a Republican is back in the White House.” In Iowa, Trump promised: “As soon as I take the oath of office, I’ll…begin the largest deportation operation in American history.” 

We got a taste of what those policies will look like over the weekend when on Friday a woman and two children drowned in the Rio Grande and two other migrants were in distress after Texas soldiers prevented Border Patrol officers from entering Shelby Park, the area where the migrants were crossing. A lawyer for the Department of Health and Human Services wrote to Texas attorney general Ken Paxton on Sunday, demanding that Texas stop blocking Border Patrol officers. 

Meanwhile, the image of the migrant woman and children drowning is so damaging that Texas troops claim they didn’t see any distressed migrants and Texas governor Greg Abbott today insisted that the migrants were already dead when his troops stopped the Border Patrol from helping, although that claim does not address the fact that the Texas troops had blocked the Border Patrol’s normal surveillance of the river and had assumed responsibility for it. Abbott tried to argue that the deaths were not his fault but rather Biden’s because, he said, Biden’s policies encouraged migrants to attempt the crossing.   

For their part, Senate Republican negotiators pushed back on the news that Johnson was preemptively tanking the immigration measure, saying that rumors about what’s in it are inaccurate and that Republicans should withhold judgment until they see it. Members of the Senate are eager to pass aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. 

Today, Nahal Toosi explored in Politicohow the domestic political infighting in the United States is undermining faith in American democracy around the world. Toosi explained that current and former diplomats pointed to concerns that U.S. foreign policy will change based on the demands of a radical base, and they pointed to Trump’s abrupt exit in 2018 from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, more popularly known as the Iran nuclear agreement, that significantly restricted Iran’s nuclear development. In the wake of that withdrawal, Iran resumed the previously prohibited uranium enrichment. 

“Foreign relations is very much based on trust, and when you know that the person that is in front of you may not be there or might be followed by somebody that feels exactly the opposite way, what is your incentive to do long-term deals?” a former Latin American diplomat asked of Toosi. A former Mexican ambassador told Toosi that if a Republican takes the White House in 2024, countries will not be able to trust the U.S. as a partner but will instead operate transactionally.

“The world does not have time for the U.S. to rebound back,” a former Asian ambassador told Toosi. “We’ve gone from a unipolar world that we’re familiar with from the 1990s into a multipolar world, but the key pole is still the United States. And if that key pole is not playing the role that we want the U.S. to do, you’ll see alternative forces coming up.” Toosi noted that Russian diplomats were “among those delighting in the U.S. chaos (and fanning it).”

Leave a Reply