Hopes for quick passage of Ukraine aid bill fade as border talks drag on


Prospects for passing legislation to speed up military aid to Ukraine this year are fading, as Republicans resist reaching a quick deal on immigration policy changes they have demanded in exchange for allowing the bill to pass. Advance.

A weekend of intense bipartisan talks to reach a compromise on how to crack down on migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border produced progress, according to lawmakers from both parties, but no progress. And with President Biden and Senate Democrats pushing hard to revive the Ukraine aid bill before leaving for the holidays, Republicans made it known they had no intention of dropping their objections by then.

“We feel like we're being bogged down,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said Sunday on NBC's “Meet the Press.” “We are not even close to reaching an agreement. It will continue next year.”

Senate negotiators, who since last week have been meeting daily with White House officials and Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, to discuss a path forward, said they had resolved some disputes over enhanced border control measures. .

But without a complete agreement to show senators, a vote is still a long way off. That casts substantial doubt on the chances that the Senate can take action this week, as Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said he hoped to do so when he announced late last week that he would keep the chamber in session.

“It's very important to be careful and do it right, and that's what we're doing,” Arizona independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said of the negotiations Sunday night, later adding: “The reality is we have a lot of problems. to solve.”

Negotiators met again on Monday and said they would continue talking this week to resolve outstanding issues. But Republicans have warned Schumer against trying to rush negotiations or force his side into a last-minute vote on a bill that has yet to materialize.

“We need to be cognizant of the fact that this is not just an exercise in the Senate,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “It's not just about the Senate and the president agreeing to something. “It’s something that can actually pass the House and become law.”

On Sunday, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., circulated a letter signed by 14 of his colleagues asking his party leaders to hold a special meeting, no earlier than Jan. 8, to discuss the details of the border talks. .

“The hasty and secret negotiations with Democrats who want an open border and that caused the current crisis will not secure the border,” they wrote.

At the same time, factions in both parties rebel over the direction of the negotiations. In recent days, senators and administration officials appear to have come together to raise the bar for migrants to claim they can credibly fear persecution if they return to their home countries.

Negotiators have also found common ground on the idea of ​​expanding the administration's ability to quickly deport immigrants who cross into the United States illegally. The authority would take effect once the number of crossings exceeds officials' capacity to detain and process migrants.

However, they still disagree on issues such as which immigrants should be detained or allowed to enter the country on parole pending their court appearance.

The emerging areas of agreement have angered progressive Democrats and Hispanic lawmakers, who have warned White House officials against reviving Trump-era border policies that Biden previously rejected.

Mayorkas and Jeffrey D. Zients, White House chief of staff, promised leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in a virtual call Saturday that they would keep them better informed about border talks. But members of the group said they were still outraged by the range of restrictive policies the administration had been willing to consider, according to people familiar with the private meeting who discussed it on condition of anonymity.

At the other end of the political spectrum, conservative Republicans have also resisted any potential deal with Democrats, arguing that their party should make no concessions and instead insist on passage of the most restrictive border surveillance bill passed. For the camera. That legislation, which has no chance of passing in the Democratic-led Senate, prioritizes resuming construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, resurrecting Trump-era policies of keeping migrants in centers. or in Mexico, and end group-based practices. parole policies that have allowed immigrants from countries like Afghanistan and Ukraine to temporarily take refuge in the United States.

The House will not return to Washington until the week of Jan. 8, and Speaker Mike Johnson has given no indication that he would be willing to call members back into session even if senators and administration officials manage to reach a deal. in the coming days. next days.

That has made deal proponents reluctant to discuss the elements of any potential compromise, fearing it will be picked apart and criticized over the holidays.

Kayla Guo contributed reports.

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