Schumer delays vacation and pushes for border deal to unlock aid to Ukraine


Senate Democrats announced Thursday that they would postpone their upcoming vacation and remain in Washington next week to push for passage of a bill that combines military assistance to Ukraine with a crackdown on migration at the U.S.-Mexico border. , as lawmakers on both sides of the talks reported progress toward a compromise.

The move, announced by Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, was an attempt by Democrats to step up pressure on Republicans to drop their opposition to the Ukraine funding bill after leaders House Republicans will leave Washington for a year without acting on the issue. affair. It also reflected a new optimism among Senate negotiators who had been haggling over a border enforcement package that they were inching closer, and a determination by Democrats to show the public that they were doing everything in their power to reach an agreement.

“If we believe something is important and urgent, we should stay and do the work,” Schumer said on the Senate floor, calling on White House officials and senators from both parties to work over the weekend to achieve a border agreement. Whether they could do it or not, he added, there would be another vote next week on the $110.5 billion security package. Republicans blocked that measure last week because it lacked the immigration policy changes they sought.

Even if the Senate manages to reach a deal within days on one of the toughest issues Congress has ever faced and advance the Ukraine bill, the measure would still face an uphill battle. President Mike Johnson, who is not involved in the border talks, poured cold water on the idea of ​​quick action.

“The House will not wait to receive and debate a rushed product,” he said in a statement Thursday night.

And many Republican senators – including some of those closest to the negotiations – said they were skeptical that a deal could be reached before Christmas.

“It's a tall order,” said Sen. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina. Other Republicans cast doubt on the idea that they will return next week.

In the absence of a deal, White House officials and Democrats on Capitol Hill accused House Republicans of abandoning Ukraine at a critical moment.

“They are returning home for the holidays while the Ukrainians return to the fight,” said National Security Council spokesman John Kirby. Ukrainians “need our help and they need it right now, not after eggnog.”

Still, in recent days, as White House advisers and Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the secretary of Homeland Security, have joined closed-door Senate talks on tougher border policies, there has been a growing sense greater than it might be possible to reach an agreement. Negotiators have been discussing increased detention of immigrants at the border and a policy known as expedited removal, which allows immigrants to be quickly deported before they can file asylum claims.

Those proposals have sparked a backlash from pro-immigrant lawmakers, who have warned Senate Democrats and the White House against reaching a deal to save Ukraine at the expense of immigrants.

“They are brutal and inhumane,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said of some of the border control proposals being discussed. “If we want to address immigration, then we need to address it appropriately, not as a ransom demand.”

But many Democrats appeared to have made their peace with the idea of ​​imposing strict new restrictions on immigration, effectively accepting the GOP argument that Congress could no longer delay addressing the border crisis.

“We must make changes to our border policy. What we see today is unsustainable,” Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and the majority leader, told reporters, noting that “it is inevitable that if we are going to change policy on the border there will be critics on the Democratic side. “

Negotiators said they would continue working through the weekend.

“We're going to work while there's daylight,” said Sen. James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma and the GOP's chief negotiator.

“It's about locking everyone in a room for the weekend and seeing how far they can go,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland.

Because of opposition within their own party, Democrats would likely need the support of at least 20 Republicans for any deal. Many are reluctant to back something they fear could fail in the House, where Republican leaders have said they want to see more restrictive border policies than those currently on the table in Senate negotiations.

Some Republican senators warned Schumer against trying to force a deal through the Senate just to meet the pre-holiday deadline.

“There is no chance of reaching a deal, drafting a legislative proposal, drafting the text and then giving people enough time to read it,” said Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio. If Schumer goes ahead with his plans, he added, “there will be a revolt on the Republican side.”

Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reports.

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