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Biden Urges GOP Leaders to 'Show a Little Spine' and Stand Up To Trump on Border Bill

President Biden lashed out at Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress on Tuesday, accusing his chief political rival of sabotaging a bipartisan bill that could meaningfully address dysfunction at the border, and admonishing GOP leaders for caving to Trump's demands.

Biden promised to work to make the legislation’s collapse a top issue on the campaign trail between now and November.

“If the bill fails—I want to be absolutely clear about something—the American people are going to know why it failed,” Biden told reporters gathered in the White House’s State Dining Room, adding, “The voters are going to know that just at the moment we’re going to secure the border and fund these other programs, Trump and the MAGA Republicans said ‘no’ because they’re afraid of Donald Trump.”

Trump has spent weeks putting public and private pressure on Republicans to kill the Senate proposal, which would add thousands of new border patrol agents and immigration officers to block the entries or more migrants, and return people more quickly to their home countries if they don’t qualify for legal entry. The funding package also includes money for Israel’s war against Hamas and Ukraine’s defense of its territory from Russia’s ongoing invasion.

The legislation was agreed to by a group of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, and has the backing of the chamber’s top Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as the Border Patrol union and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. If it passes out of the Senate, House Speaker Mike Johnson has said the bill would be “dead on arrival” in the House.

“It’s time for Republicans in Congress to show a little courage, to show a little spine, to make it clear to the American people that you work for them, not for anyone else,” Biden said, in what was likely a preview of attacks Democrats will be making against Republicans in races across the country.

Biden’s decision to target some of his criticism at Republicans in Congress is unlikely to bring over any votes, and may be a sign that the negotiations, while nominally still ongoing, have hit an irreparable rift.

Polling suggests immigration is a political weak point for Biden. A recent NBC News poll showed that voters thought Trump would be better at securing the border by 35 percentage points, a wide margin. The same poll found 47% of voters want to vote for Trump, 42% for Biden, and 11% were unsure.

On Monday, Trump described the border bill proposal as a “trap” by Democrats to shift the blame for the crisis on the border to Republicans. “The ridiculous ‘Border’ Bill is nothing more than a highly sophisticated trap for Republicans to assume the blame on what the Radical Left Democrats have done to our Border, just in time for our most important EVER Election. Don’t fall for it!!!” Trump wrote on his social media platform Truth Social.

The bipartisan compromise would have allowed him to shut down the border immediately, Biden said, at a time when Border Patrol agents are finding more than 5,000 people per day crossing between ports of entry.

Biden accused Trump of pressuring Republican lawmakers and interfering in the funding negotiation for political purposes. "He doesn't really want to solve the problem, he wants a political issue to run against me,” Biden said.

Contact us at letters@time.com.