Senate unveils deal on border, Israel/Ukraine aid; House says “dead on arrival”.
California facing catastrophic flooding, thousands without power.
Senate unveils deal on border, Israel/Ukraine aid; House says “dead on arrival”
After months of negotiation, a bipartisan group of Senators has presented a $118 billion deal for border security as well as aid to Israel and Ukraine. The bill would provide:
- About $20 billion for border security
- About $60 billion in military aid for Ukraine.
- $14 billion in military aid to Israel.
- $10 billion in humanitarian aid for civilians affected in both warzones. However, the portion allotted to Gaza and the West Bank is specifically barred from going to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The US and several allies have suspended funding to UNRWA, which serves about 6 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Funding was cut off after Israel leveled (so far unsubstantiated) accusations that about a dozen UNRWA employees were somehow “involved” in the Oct. 7 attack.
- Just under $2.5 billion for operations in the Red Sea countering the Houthis in Yemen.
The border security portion of the bill would allow DHS to temporarily shut down the border if there are more than 5,000 daily border crossings over a 7-day period. The border would remain shut for 2-3 weeks depending on how fast the number of migrant encounters drops.
There are some long overdue fixes to the asylum system in the bill, including measures to decrease the wait time for an asylum hearing to 6 months, rather than several years as is often the case now. Asylum seekers would also be able to immediately apply for work permits, which will reduce the financial burden currently borne by local municipalities to shelter and feed migrants who cannot work to support themselves. Currently, asylum seekers must wait 18 months before they can even apply for a work permit.
Difficult path to passage
The Senate will hold a floor vote on the bill on Wednesday. However, the bill has a lot of opposition from both parties. Some Democrats have raised objections to the absence of any provisions related to “Dreamers”, beneficiaries of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act. Protections for people brought illegally to the US as children has previously had broad bipartisan popular support.
A few Democrats are also objecting to the amount of military aid for Israel. The International Court of Justice recently ruled it plausible that Israel is committing a genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.
The greatest opposition has come from Republicans, especially in the House. Last week, former President Trump called on Republicans not to back the bill. Trump’s camp believes it is in his interest for border chaos to persist leading up to the election in November. As a result, many House Republicans have vowed not to vote for it and House Speaker Mike Johnson has declared the bill “dead on arrival”.
Interestingly, Johnson called on the Senate not to even hold a vote on it, declaring consideration of this bill “a waste of time”. Presumably this is because Johnson doesn’t want his party to be seen to transparently obstruct any action on the border due to political calculations.
Johnson has declared that the House will take up a standalone bill to provide $17 billion in aid to Israel, a bill the White House says President Biden will veto.
California facing catastrophic flooding, thousands without power
At least three people are dead as a result of flooding in Southern California. The three so far reported dead are due to tree falls resulting from high winds and heavy rain. This is the second round of destructive storms brought by a series of “atmospheric rivers” in less than a week. This storm is not as powerful as the previous storm, but has seemingly stalled over Southern California, increasing the devastation. According to the National Weather Service, more than 10 inches of rain have fallen in Los Angeles since Sunday. The area will not see any relief until sometime on Tuesday. According to poweroutage.us, over 278,000 customers are without power in California.
About 38 million people in California and Arizona are currently under flood warnings. In addition to widespread street flooding, landslides in higher elevation areas have also wrought havoc. Due to several successive years of heatwaves and forest fires, areas that have lost tree and ground cover are more susceptible to landslides.