POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Romney: Both Republicans, Democrats holding up Ukraine aid

Dec 11, 2023, 8:39 AM | Updated: Dec 12, 2023, 1:49 pm

mitt romney leaving ukraine meeting at the capitol...

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 05: Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) departs from an all-senators closed briefing where they heard from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky via video conference at the U.S. Capitol on December 05, 2023 in Washington, DC. In addition to hearing from Zelensky, high-level Ukraine officials briefed the senators in-person to make a last-minute appeal for additional aid in their war against Russian aggression as funding will expire at the end of December. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

(Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — Both Republicans and Democrats share blame in holding up an aid package for Ukraine, according to Utah’s Mitt Romney in a new interview on a national platform. 

Sen. Romney, R-Utah, told NBC’s Meet the Press in an exclusive interview on Sunday that either Republicans or Democrats could act to end an impasse over the package, which Republicans refuse to advance without a measure that addresses border security. 

“It’s not just Republicans that are holding a hard line, it’s Democrats that are holding a hard line,” Romney said. “Either side can move and can get this done.” 

Border crossings by the numbers

The senator told host Kristen Welker that Republicans harbor concerns about the sheer numbers of people crossing the U.S. border every day. 

“We have gone from 1 to 2,000 encounters – illegal encounters at the border, a day, under the three prior presidents. Under Bush, Obama and Trump,” he said. “Now we’re seeing 10 to 12,000 a day. As Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman said, we’re basically seeing Pittsburgh show up at the border every month.” 

That number appears to come from the data reported by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in September 2023. CBP reported 341,392 total encounters with non-citizens at our borders nationwide in September, or just over 11,000 per day. But September represented the month with the largest numbers in fiscal 2023; on average, CBP handled about 8,770 per day in all of fiscal 2023. 

CBP’s own data suggests 8,770 encounters per day is a slight increase from the year before when the average was 7,580.

Romney: Ukraine deserves our support, not a blank check

Romney says his concern about border crossings does not negate his concerns about supporting Ukraine against Russia. 

“We’re not going to write a blank check [to Ukraine], we’re going to evaluate exactly how the money is spent,” he said. “What we’re going to do is provide Ukraine with the weapons they need to defend themselves against a brutal invasion by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, who is a thug and a murderer.” 

Romney pointed out that President Joe Biden recently signaled a willingness to compromise to move aid to Ukraine forward. 

“Don’t forget, the president is the one that put the border and the border security issue as part of this package. This is not a Republican issue. He brought it to the front and that’s why we’re dealing with it,” Romney said.

Read more: Biden says there’s “not much time” to keep aid flowing to Ukraine

“My own view is that it’s very much in America’s interest to see Ukraine successful and to provide the weapons that Ukraine needs to defend itself,” Romney added. “Anything other than that would be a huge dereliction of our responsibility… This is in America’s interest to make sure that Ukraine puts up a great fight.” 

Democrats argue that tying aid for Ukraine to border security plays into Putin’s hand. They suggested the Russian leader celebrates the impasse

Funding for aid to Ukraine expires at the end of the year, Romney noted. 

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Romney: Both Republicans, Democrats holding up Ukraine aid