Ukraine aid bill delayed as border talks drag on

Prospects of passing legislation to speed up military aid to Ukraine this year are fading, as Republicans are reluctant to reach a quick agreement on the immigration policy changes they have sought in exchange for passing the bill.

After a weekend of intense bipartisan talks on the border produced progress but no breakthrough, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, acknowledged Monday that negotiators were still far from completing a deal.

“It’s going to take more time to get it done,” he said on the Senate floor Monday afternoon, laying out plans for the week that made no mention of any votes on the aid package for Ukraine.

That’s a reversal from last week, when Schumer announced he would delay the Senate’s holiday recess and keep the House in Washington this week in hopes of reviving and passing the Ukraine aid bill sooner of departure for the year.

But Republicans have signaled they have no intention of withdrawing their objections by then.

“We feel like we’re trapped,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “We are nowhere near an agreement. It will continue 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 disputes over enhanced border control measures.

But without a full agreement to show senators, a vote remained a long way off.

“It’s very important to be careful and do it correctly, and that’s what we’re doing,” Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona independent, said Sunday evening of the negotiations, later adding: “The reality is we have there are a lot of problems to work on.”

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

“We need to be mindful of the fact that this is not just a Senate exercise,” Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “It’s not just about the Senate and the president agreeing on something. It’s something that can actually pass the House and be signed into law.”

On Sunday, Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, circulated a letter signed by 14 of his colleagues calling on his party leaders to hold a special meeting, no earlier than January 11, 2019. 8, on the details of the border talks.

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

At the same time, factions of both parties rebel over the direction of the negotiations. In recent days, senators and administration officials appear to have coalesced to raise the standard for migrants to say they can credibly fear persecution if returned to their home countries.

Negotiators also found common ground on the idea of ​​expanding the administration’s ability to quickly deport migrants who enter the United States illegally. The authority would take action once the number of crossings exceeds officials’ ability to detain and process migrants.

They still disagree, however, on issues such as which migrants should be held in detention or admitted into the country on parole pending their court appearances.

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 had previously rejected.

Mr. Mayorkas and Jeffrey D. Zients, the 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 caucus members said they still bristled at the raft 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.

On the opposite end of the political spectrum, conservative Republicans have also opposed any potential deal with Democrats, arguing that their party should make no concessions and instead insist on passage of the more restrictive House-passed control bill of borders. This legislation, which has no chance of passing through the Democratic-led Senate, prioritizes resuming construction of a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico, resurrecting Trump-era policies of holding migrants in detention facilities detention or Mexico, and the end of group-based policies. parole policies that have allowed migrants from countries like Afghanistan and Ukraine to take temporary refuge in the United States.

The House will not return to Washington until the week of January. 8, and President Mike Johnson has given no indication that he would be willing to call members back into session, even if senators and administration officials can reach an agreement in the coming days.

That has made supporters of a deal reluctant to discuss the elements of any potential compromise, lest it be picked apart and criticized over the holidays.

Kayla Guo contributed to the reporting.