March 4, 2024

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Ukraine aid bill delayed as border talks continue

Ukraine aid bill delayed as border talks continue

The prospects of passing legislation to speed up military aid to Ukraine this year are fading, as Republicans refuse to reach a quick agreement on immigration policy changes they have demanded in exchange for allowing the bill to move forward.

After a weekend of intense bipartisan border talks that produced progress but no progress, Sen. Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, acknowledged Monday that negotiators are still far from concluding an agreement.

“It’s going to take some time to get it done,” he said on the Senate floor Monday afternoon, laying out plans for a week that signaled no vote on the aid package for Ukraine.

That was a reversal from last week, when Mr. Schumer announced he would adjourn the Senate for recess and keep the chamber in Washington this week, hoping to revive and pass a Ukraine aid bill before he departs for the year.

Republicans have announced that they have no intention of abandoning their objections by then.

“We feel like we’re being cornered,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “We are not close to reaching an agreement. It will go to next year.”

Senate negotiators, who have been meeting daily since last week with White House officials and Alejandro Mayorkas, the Homeland Security Secretary, to discuss a way forward, said they had resolved some disagreements about beefing up law enforcement at the border.

But without a full agreement to present to senators, a vote remains elusive.

Senator Christopher S. Murphy, the Connecticut Democrat, said of Monday night’s negotiations: “There’s nothing for senators to look at yet,” adding later: “You’ve got to do it right, not fast.”

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Negotiators plan to meet with White House officials again on Tuesday, and said they will continue talking as long as it takes to resolve the outstanding issues. But Republicans warned Mr. Schumer not to try to speed up negotiations or pressure their side into a last-minute vote on a bill that has not yet been reached.

“We need to be cognizant of the fact that this is not just a Senate exercise,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told “Fox News Sunday.” “It’s not just the Senate and the president agreeing to something. “It is something that could actually be passed in the House of Representatives and signed into law.”

Only 17 of the 49 GOP senators returned to Washington Monday night to vote on the nominations, indicating doubts among Republicans about the chances of securing a border deal in time for a vote before the holidays.

On Sunday, Sen. Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin and one of the laggards, distributed a letter signed by 14 of his colleagues calling on his party leaders to hold a special meeting, no later than January 8, on the details of the border talks.

“Quick, secret negotiations with Democrats who want open borders and who caused the current crisis will not secure the border,” they wrote.

At the same time, factions on both sides are rebelling against the direction of the negotiations. In recent days, senators and administration officials appear to have coalesced around raising the profile of immigrants to claim they could fear persecution if they returned to their home countries.

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Negotiators also found common ground on the idea of ​​expanding the administration’s ability to quickly deport immigrants who cross the border illegally into the United States. The authority will begin its work as soon as the number of crossings exceeds the capacity of officials to detain and process migrants.

However, they remain at odds over issues such as detaining migrants or allowing them 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.

Mr. Mayorkas and Jeffrey De Zients, the White House chief of staff, promised leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in a virtual call on Saturday to keep them better informed about the border talks. But caucus members said they were still angry about the array of restrictive policies the administration was willing to accept, according to people familiar with the private meeting who discussed it on the condition of anonymity.

On the other end of the political spectrum, conservative Republicans have also resisted any potential agreement with Democrats, arguing that their party should make no concessions and instead insist on passing the more restrictive border enforcement bill passed by the House. The legislation, which has no chance of passing in the Democratic-led Senate, prioritizes resuming construction of a wall on the US border with Mexico, reviving Trump-era policies of keeping migrants either in detention facilities or in Mexico, and ending group-based discrimination. Parole policies that allowed immigrants from countries such as Afghanistan and Ukraine to temporarily seek refuge in the United States.

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The House of Representatives is not scheduled to return to Washington until the week of January 8, and House Speaker Mike Johnson has given no indication that he would be willing to call members back into session, even if senators and Senate officials can. The administration was unable to reach an agreement on this matter. The next few days.

That has made proponents of the deal reluctant to discuss elements of any potential settlement, fearing it would be dismantled and criticized over the holidays.

Kayla Guo Contributed to reports.