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GOP wants border funding to be wrapped into Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan aid package

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Biden says he will ask Congress to pass a, quote-unquote, "unprecedented" level of aid to Israel as the country continues its war with Hamas. The president is expected to propose bundling it together with funding for Ukraine and Taiwan along with more money for security along the U.S.-Mexico border in a package totaling about $100 billion. One person who's been pushing for just this kind of combined aid package is Senator Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska. When I spoke with him earlier, I asked him why he wants to see the aid package structured that way.

DAN SULLIVAN: We need to be strategic. We need to step back and recognize that these challenges are going to be with us for many years in terms of this new era of authoritarian aggression. Xi Jinping is very closely watching what's happening in Ukraine. Iran is working very closely with Russia in Ukraine. Iran is obviously behind all of the big national security challenges in the Middle East. And of course, when you have a wide-open border and you have terrorists who are looking at the United States - and that's always still a threat - the ability to actually bring these together, from my perspective, makes sense both from a policy perspective but also from the standpoint of broadening the support of members of Congress.

MARTIN: You've been a proponent of aid to Ukraine for some time now. Why do you think that some of your Republican colleagues are so skeptical? And if you've had these conversations with them, what do you say to them?

SULLIVAN: Well, look, one of the reasons that aid to Ukraine has been, you know, an increasingly contentious issue is the way in which the Biden administration has undertaken support to the Ukrainians. Literally every weapon system that the Ukrainians have needed - from Stingers to HIMARS to F-16s - the Biden administration was reluctant to give to the Ukrainians to help them win, Congress pressured the administration and then eventually - literally months, almost years - they would do that. And there's also this issue of...

MARTIN: I'm sorry. Can I just say - I'm sorry. Can I interrupt you? You're saying that the administration...

SULLIVAN: Sure.

MARTIN: ...Has been too slow to respond to Ukraine's requests. What does that have to do with people on your side of the aisle who say that they don't want to continue the aid at all?

SULLIVAN: Oh, I think they're 100% directly related, because when you have significant aid that's going to - and it's not deployed in a rapid manner, you start to lose the confidence in the administration's ability to help the Ukrainians prevail. I think it's 100% connected.

MARTIN: Do you have any concern that tying these issues together jeopardizes funding for any of them?

SULLIVAN: Well, that's certainly not my intention. I'm hopeful that it actually broadens the support for members of Congress who are focused on different issues. And as you know, a lot of times in the Congress, things happen where you get a bill or a funding package that you don't agree with everything, but if you agree with a lot of it, it can broaden the support.

MARTIN: The Senate can move as it wishes...

SULLIVAN: Yes.

MARTIN: ...But the House cannot hold a vote on this because the House still does not have a speaker. Are you talking to your Republican colleagues about this?

SULLIVAN: Oh, I'm definitely talking to Republican and Democratic members of the House. I'm hopeful we're going to get a speaker here soon, but that has not limited me from reaching out to different House members who strongly care about national security issues, border issues, and I've been talking to a number of them over the last couple of weeks.

MARTIN: That is Senator Dan Sullivan. He's a Republican from Alaska. Senator Sullivan, thanks so much for talking to us about this.

SULLIVAN: Thanks very much, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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