Joe Biden determined to use stunning Donald Trump-backed collapse of border deal as a weapon in 2024 campaign

How it began: President Joe Biden was urgently seeking more money from Congress to aid Ukraine and Israel. He took a gamble by seizing on GOP demands to simultaneously address one of his biggest political liabilities — illegal migration at the U.S.-Mexico border.

How it ended: Biden came close to succeeding, before it all fell apart spectacularly. Now the President is trying to make the best of it after a major congressional deal was scuttled once Republican front-runner Donald Trump got involved. And Biden is intent on showing that the former president and his “Make America Great Again” Republican acolytes in Congress aren’t really interested in solutions.

In between: There is a story of a president willing to anger his own party’s activist class in an election year, rare hope for bipartisan progress on one of the third rails of American politics, and a sudden, stunning collapse publicly engineered by Trump that Biden’s team now sees as a political gift.

This account of Biden’s big gamble is based on interviews with more than a dozen White House aides, lawmakers, Biden administration officials and congressional aides, some of whom spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the back and forth over the collapsed deal, and what happens next.

The bipartisan legislative deal announced Sunday evening was the culmination of more than four months of negotiations that started with Senate Democrats and Republicans, and later included top Biden aides and Cabinet officials. It came after Republicans, led by then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, backed a temporary spending deal that kept the government operating but delivered no new funding for Ukraine.

McCarthy had insisted to the White House that any effort to continue U.S. funding for Ukraine needed to be linked to significant steps to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, long a GOP priority. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Biden’s most valuable Republican ally when it came to Ukraine aid, also began appealing to senior administration officials for the spending measure to include border provisions.

Inside the White House, there was no shortage of grumbling that Republicans were insisting on unrelated policy changes and holding up badly needed money for the Ukrainian armed forces.

But Biden and his advisers saw a potential upside as well, at a time when the President’s handling of immigration was one of his biggest political vulnerabilities and there were chaotic scenes at the border and in major Democratic-run cities where migrants are sleeping in police station foyers, bus stations and hotels.

Before long McCarthy was ousted and it took weeks to elect a replacement. New House Speaker Mike Johnson, elected Oct. 25, made clear that he, too, wanted to pair border security with any new Ukraine funding.

While the House was in disarray, a group of bipartisan senators quietly got to work.

The White House kept its distance until senior officials felt it was the right time to get directly involved, but there was also pressure from Republicans for them to join the talks. GOP lawmakers insisted it was necessary for Biden to expend some political capital and embrace a border compromise that could be unpopular with parts of his own party.

On Dec. 12, the White House dispatched senior officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, to join the negotiations. The idea was to underscore Biden’s seriousness about cutting a deal with Republicans.

“Immediately after the Republicans demanded that the administration show up, they showed up,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., one the negotiators.




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