Protect America’s Borders First, Then Ukraine’s, Lee Tells Senate

Opposition is growing in Congress to continuing to write big checks to help other countries while leaving the US wide open to illegal immigration.
Protect America’s Borders First, Then Ukraine’s, Lee Tells Senate
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) speaks during a news conference on the U.S. Southern Border at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Feb. 6, 2024. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Mark Tapscott
2/10/2024
Updated:
2/11/2024
0:00

Elected officials in both political parties have betrayed the American people by failing to make protection of U.S. borders their first priority and then working for the security of Ukraine’s borders, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) told a mostly empty Senate chamber during a Saturday afternoon address lasting more than four hours.

The unusual presentation was part of a “Die-Hards Filibuster” by Mr. Lee and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) as a last-ditch effort to force additional debate on the $95.3 billion emergency national security supplemental package that includes more than $61 billion in assistance to Ukraine, $14 billion to Israel, and $2 billion to Taiwan. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) back the proposal.

“I think we should stay here as long as it takes,” Mr. Paul said Friday. “If it takes a week or a month, I’ll force them to stay here to discuss why they think the border of Ukraine is more important than the U.S. border.”

Mr. Lee and Mr. Paul hope to delay ending debate on the aid measure and gain consideration of amendments requiring President Joe Biden to end the flood of more than 8 million illegal immigrants who have entered the United States since he was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2021. A vote on whether to close debate on the proposal is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday.

Mr. Lee’s remarks also included multiple condemnations of 17 of his GOP Senate colleagues who on Friday voted with Democrats to limit debate on the aid proposal. Mr. Lee said he was assured then that he and other critics would be able to offer amendments prior to the final vote.

In fact, the Utah Republican repeatedly sought unanimous consent to offer amendments during his lengthy floor speech but he was prevented by objections from Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.).

Mr. Lee also repeatedly noted that all 49 Republicans in the Senate agreed four months ago to support efforts led on their side by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) to negotiate compromise border security provisions that would effectively end President Biden’s open border policies to be included with the foreign aid.

“A few months ago, Senate Republicans made a commitment last Fall, not so long ago, a commitment that we made to each other and to the American people. That commitment was simple, it was one that said: before we send another dollar, another dime, another penny, to Ukraine, let’s do what we can, even if it means harnessing the drive that some in this body feel toward sending more money to Ukraine, and let’s harness that to make sure that we can force the will within the Biden administration to actually enforce the border,” Mr. Lee said at the outset of his lengthy address.

But the compromise brought forward late Sunday by Mr. Lankford after months of talks with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) did not end those policies, according to Mr. Lee and other conservative Republican senators, and was decisively rejected. The 17 Republicans then supported Mr. Schumer’s move to pass the supplemental without any border provisions, a decision that, according to Mr. Lee, betrayed the agreement four months ago.

“Mr. President, we cannot send billions of dollars to Ukraine while America’s own borders are bleeding! This betrayal is all the more loathsome because it occurs at a time when the eyes of the nation are turned to sport and family and fun—as they should be,” Mr. Lee continued in his opening remarks, referring to this weekend’s Super Bowl professional football championship game in Las Vegas between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) arrives for a Senate Republican meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Feb. 8, 2024. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) arrives for a Senate Republican meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Feb. 8, 2024. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

“Heaven help us, the people of America should not have to watch us every hour of every day, lest their own government stab them in the back. What have they done to deserve such untrustworthy public servants? What grudge does this body hold against the very people who elected us,” he said.

Mr. Lee pointed out that, when President Biden asked Congress in 2023 for more than $60 billion in new U.S. economic and military assistance, the new aid was on top of the $113 billion already provided during the war in Ukraine that was sparked by Russia’s invasion in February 2022.

“That was a sum of money that last time I checked was roughly double what Russia spends on national defense in an average year, and is perhaps 20, or 25 times what Ukraine spends on defense in a typical year,” Mr. Lee said. “This sum of money exceeds what any other nation has spent on Ukraine ... it is significantly higher than what every other nation has spent on security assistance to Ukraine combined since the start of this war.”

Mr. Lee’s first proposed amendment was entitled the “Stopping Border Surges Amendment,” which he claimed “would make discrete, common-sense changes to our immigration law to protect our border. It would prevent traffickers from using toddlers and babies as a means to ensure their customers easy admission into the interior of our country.”

“It would allow minors from any nation, if they do not have a credible fear of persecution, to be safely returned to their home country. It would expedite the hearing process for children trafficked across the border. It requires asylum seekers to apply for asylum in at least one safe country on their route into the United States.”

Ms. Duckworth objected, which prevented adoption because the amendment was offered under a unanimous consent request. Historically, senators have been able to secure consideration of amendments to legislation being debated by the Senate by the unanimous consent process.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) speaks at a news conference after a weekly policy luncheon with Senate Democrats at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington on Feb. 6, 2024. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) speaks at a news conference after a weekly policy luncheon with Senate Democrats at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington on Feb. 6, 2024. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Other amendments offered by Mr. Lee included one that would prevent voting in federal elections by illegal immigrants residing in the country.

“This amendment would make it very clear that an illegal alien who knowingly registers to vote will be subject to criminal penalties. For the next presidential election and beyond, we will have at least 8 to 10 million illegal aliens in this country who are prime targets for voter manipulation. We must protect our Republic and the integrity of each American vote against a wave of possible illegal votes,” Mr. Lee explained. Ms. Duckworth again objected.

A third amendment offered by the Utah Republican would require President Biden to submit to Congress a specific, written strategy for the U.S. assistance to Ukraine, including specific objectives and timelines. No more than 2 percent of the funds authorized by the supplemental could be issued to Ukraine until the strategy is submitted to Congress.

“We’ve blindly spent over $113 billion for Ukraine with no plan, no mission, and no clear objectives on how U.S. engagement directly benefits our own national interests. The blind spending must stop, and it must stop today—not one penny more without a plan.”

Mark Tapscott is an award-winning investigative editor and reporter who covers Congress, national politics, and policy for The Epoch Times. Mark was admitted to the National Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Hall of Fame in 2006 and he was named Journalist of the Year by CPAC in 2008. He was a consulting editor on the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series “Other Than Honorable” in 2014.