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Senate to consider bill pairing Ukraine-Israel aid with funds for border provisions

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

After months of talks, a bipartisan trio of Senate negotiators has released a $118 billion bill meant to address national security at home and abroad.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The 370-page bill changes immigration laws to reduce the record numbers of migrants at the U.S. border with Mexico. It also includes money for two key allies at war, Israel and Ukraine. But House speaker Mike Johnson is already declaring the bill dead on arrival in the House.

FADEL: NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh joins us now to talk about the details. Good morning, Deirdre.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Good morning.

FADEL: So what's in the deal?

WALSH: Well, this bill has some pretty major changes to border policies. It's not a comprehensive immigration bill. It focuses mainly on tamping down and managing the record number of migrants we've seen crossing the southwest border over recent months. It has a new requirement for the president. He would be mandated to effectively shut down much of the southwest border to any new asylum claims once the number of migrants approaching the border hits 5,000 people or migrants on average per day over the course of the week.

This proposal makes it harder for people to claim asylum. It does speed up the process for those going through the system. But it also includes something that governors and mayors of cities like New York and Denver have really pushed for, work permits for those who do gain entry to the U.S. It has about $20 billion to implement these new security law changes. Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy talked about the main goal in a call with reporters last night.

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CHRIS MURPHY: The bill reforms the asylum approval process and system so that claims are heard in six months, not 10 years, as is often the case today.

FADEL: And what about money for Ukraine and Israel?

WALSH: Right, this bill has about $60 billion for Ukraine. That's what President Biden requested last year. Republicans insisted any new money for Ukraine had to be linked to border security. There's also about $14 billion in security aid for Israel and $10 billion for humanitarian relief for civilians affected by both wars.

FADEL: OK, so the big question is, does this have enough bipartisan support to move forward in the Senate?

WALSH: It's unclear right now. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer is teeing up a test vote for this Wednesday. But in the hours since the bill came out last night, there's really been a lot of criticism from both the left and the right. Some outside immigration advocates are saying that some of the proposals to expedite asylum are positive, but they oppose this mandatory trigger to shut down much of the border. A series of Senate Republicans have already declared they're going to vote no. We've heard from some progressives saying the bill is too punitive. They need 60 votes to advance this bill in the Senate.

FADEL: Well, on top of all that, it's an election year.

WALSH: Right.

FADEL: It's rare for major bills on policies as complicated as immigration to get through. What are the prospects?

WALSH: Not great. I mean, President Biden did say last night, get this bill to his desk and he will sign it. We've seen recent polls showing Biden's handling of the border is really a weak spot politically for him, and he's increasingly been leaning into much tougher border policies. But former President Trump, the likely 2024 Republican nominee, really wants to wield this issue against the president. He's been urging Republicans to derail the bill. House speaker Mike Johnson said it's dead on arrival.

FADEL: NPR's Deirdre Walsh. Thanks, Deirdre.

WALSH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.