(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden blamed Donald Trump for sinking a bipartisan immigration and Ukraine aid bill, saying the Republican frontrunner pressured members of his party to reject it in order to gain an advantage in the November election.
Most Read from Bloomberg
Biden acknowledged the Senate package was all but dead — a move that could jeopardize the US effort to provide more weapons and support to Ukraine in its war to repel Russia’s invasion.
“All indications are this bill won’t even move forward to the Senate floor. Why? A simple reason. Donald Trump,” Biden said Tuesday from the White House.
Less than an hour after Biden spoke, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who supported the Ukraine-border deal, conceded it “will not become law,” citing House Speaker Mike Johnson’s opposition.
McConnell endorsed moving forward with emergency funding for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan and said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer would have to decide how to repackage the deal.
Biden sought to cast responsibility for the failure to secure an agreement on the border — an issue which polls show is a major political liability for his reelection hopes — on congressional Republicans and Trump. He warned that if Republicans do not approve the package he would use it to hammer Trump on the campaign trail.
“Every day between now and November, the American people are going to know that the only reason the border is not secure is Donald Trump and his MAGA Republican friends,” Biden said.
Biden said that the failure to resolve the impasse on the border has put Ukraine in “dire straits.” The president tied the two issues together in an October funding request after Republicans said they would not approve aid for Ukraine without stricter immigration enforcement policies.
The deadlock has left Kyiv without enough weapons and ammunition to drive Russian forces off its territory, with fighting expected to intensify in the spring.
“History is watching. Failure to support Ukraine at this critical moment will never be forgotten,” Biden said, wearing a lapel pin with both the US and Ukrainian flags. “Supporting this bill is standing up to Putin. Opposing this bill is playing into his hands.”
Six in 10 swing state voters say the president bears responsibility for the the migrant influx at the southwest border, a Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll taken last month found, as Trump has blamed Biden for the situation.
By rallying congressional Republicans to kill the deal, Trump gave Biden an opening to argue he tried to solve the problem only to be blocked by an opponent who wants to take political advantage of border chaos.
The challenge for Biden will be making that case to the public. He must explain the issue in a way that turns what has been a long-winding legislative debate into a campaign rallying cry that voters can understand.
“I’ll be taking this issue to the country,” the president said.
The president spoke as the deal — which combines a series of strict new procedures designed to limit illegal migration on the southern border with funding for Ukraine, Israel, and other US allies — was on the brink of defeat just days after its unveiling.
“It’s time for Republicans in the Congress to show a little courage, show a little spine,” Biden added.
Earlier: Schumer Presses Ahead on Faltering US Border-Ukraine Deal
The $118 billion legislative package would expand deportation flights, hire additional immigration and border patrol officers, and create a faster process for deportation of those entering the country illegally without legitimate asylum claims. It would also fund new drug-screening equipment for deployment at the border.
But Trump and his allies in the House lambasted the agreement, arguing it doesn’t go far enough in restricting asylum claims and offers too much discretion to the president to shield migrants from deportation.
Some Republicans have openly said they are reluctant to give Biden a political victory ahead of November. Several opponents of the deal, including House Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Utah Senator Mike Lee, sent fundraising appeals touting their efforts to kill it.
Even before Biden spoke, GOP support for the deal in the upper chamber crumbled. James Lankford, the Oklahoma senator who negotiated the agreement for Republicans, told reporters he does not believe the package has enough support to advance in the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said earlier Tuesday that he would nonetheless move forward with a test vote, and later added the chamber would stay on the measure “as long as it takes” in the face of Republican opposition.
The bipartisan agreement had represented a lifeline for Biden on a topic that has become a significant political liability.
Democratic mayors and governors have joined Republicans in criticizing his administration’s handling of the historic influx of migrants at the Southern border.
Yet immigrant-rights advocates and Hispanic groups, who are a critical part of Biden’s base, criticized the border policies in the Senate bill as too harsh. That created another potential vulnerability for Biden as the general election nears.
--With assistance from Christian Hall, Michelle Jamrisko and Josh Wingrove.
(Updates with additional details, background throughout)
Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek
©2024 Bloomberg L.P.