Republican senators walked out of a classified briefing on Ukraine on Tuesday in protest over a dearth of U.S. border security measures they want included in a supplemental bill to fund the war-torn country's defense against Russia. Photo by Julia Nikhinson/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 6 (UPI) -- A classified briefing on Ukraine fell apart as some Republicans walked out in protest over the lack of domestic immigration measures in a supplemental aid package the White House is pushing Congress to pass to bolster its besieged ally's defenses against Russia.
The White House has for months argued that with Ukraine funding almost spent, a new $106 billion supplemental aid package unveiled in October was needed to advance U.S. national security by supporting allies Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan at a time when democracy worldwide was under threat from autocrats and dictators.
President Joe Biden's supplemental funding bill includes resources for border security and enforcement, but does not appear to go as far as Republicans would like.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters prior to the briefing Tuesday that Republican leaders' bid to staple a GOP border bill to it was a "non-starter."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-K.Y., earlier Tuesday warned that he would urge his members to vote against moving the bill forward unless it included "meaningful changes to the border."
Republican senators later walked out of the briefing on the war in Ukraine by administration officials, voicing frustration to reporters that there was no discussion about the border. One complained that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas should have been present.
"Republicans are walking out of the meeting because Democrats are not willing to actually discuss what it takes to get a deal done," Sen. Mitt Romney R-Utah, told reporters as he left the briefing, stating nothing new was said about Ukraine in the meeting and that "there has to be security for our border" in the supplemental package.
Schumer told reporters that the briefing on Ukraine was "immediately hijacked" by McConnell who called on Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., to give a talk on border negotiations.
"That wasn't the purpose. At all," he said.
Then a senator he would not name began screaming at one of the generals on the panel, challenging him on why he didn't go to the border, Schumer said.
Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., agreed that it was a "very tense meeting" but blamed Schumer for trying to "shut down anybody who raised the border issue."
"He called the meeting and didn't have anyone from DHS there," he said. "It was a complete waste of time."
Schumer has said funding to Ukraine cannot wait and that he will move to a procedural vote on the supplemental package.
He said earlier Tuesday that he has offered Republicans the first amendment to the bill if it moves forward "and they can put whatever they want" in it.
"We think there are good proposals on the border in the president's bill that do a lot," Schumer said. "But if they think it's not enough, I will not interfere with them drawing up an amendment, but it will need 60 votes, like any amendment would."
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine was supposed to participate in the confidential briefing via secure video, but pulled out at the last minute.