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

Senate Democrats announced Thursday that they will postpone their upcoming vacation and remain in Washington next week to push for passage of a bill that pairs military assistance to Ukraine with a crackdown on border migration United States with Mexico, as legislated on both sides of the country. the talks reported progress towards a compromise.

The move, announced by Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, was an attempt by Democrats to step up pressure on Republicans to withdraw their opposition to the Ukraine funding bill after Republican leaders of the House left Washington for a year without acting on it. question. It also reflected a new optimism among Senate negotiators who had been haggling over a border control package they were edging ever closer — and a determination on the part of Democrats to show the public that they were doing everything in their power to get it done. a deal.

“If we believe something is important and urgent, we should stay and get the job done,” Schumer said on the Senate floor, calling on White House officials and senators of both parties to work over the weekend to reach a border agreement. Whether they can or not, she added, there will 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 could reach an agreement in a few days on one of the most difficult issues Congress has faced and move forward on the Ukraine bill, the measure would still face an uphill battle. Speaker Mike Johnson, who is not involved in the border talks, threw cold water on the idea of ​​quick action.

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

And many Republican senators – including some of those closest to the negotiations – said they were skeptical about the possibility of reaching an agreement before Christmas.

“It’s a tall order,” said Senator Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina. Other Republicans cast doubt on the idea that they would be back all next week.

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

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

Yet in recent days, as White House aides and Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the secretary of Homeland Security, joined closed-door talks in the Senate on tougher border policies, there was a growing sense that a deal could to be possible. Negotiators discussed increased migrant detention at the border and a policy known as expedited removal, which allows migrants to be quickly deported before they can apply for asylum.

Such proposals have prompted a backlash from pro-immigrant lawmakers, who have warned Senate Democrats and the White House against making a deal to save Ukraine at the expense of migrants.

“They are brutal and inhumane,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington, said of some of the border control proposals under discussion. “If we want to deal with immigration, then we should deal with it fairly, not as a ransom demand.”

But many Democrats appeared to have made peace with the idea of ​​tough new immigration restrictions, effectively accepting the GOP argument that Congress could no longer put off dealing with the border crisis.

“Changes need to be made to our policy at the border. What we see now is untenable,” Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and majority leader, told reporters, stressing that “it is inevitable that if we want to change policy on the border there will be critics on the Democratic side. “

Negotiators said they would continue working over the weekend.

“We will work as long as there is daylight,” said Senator James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican and the GOP’s chief negotiator.

“It’s about locking everyone in a room over the weekend and seeing how far they can get,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of 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 support something they fear will fail in the House, where Republican leaders have said they want to see more restrictive border policies than those currently on the negotiating table in the Senate.

Some GOP senators have warned Schumer not to try to push a deal through the Senate just to meet a pre-holiday deadline.

“There is no way we can reach an agreement, come up with a legislative proposal, put the text together and then give people enough time to read it,” said Senator JD Vance, Republican of Ohio. If Schumer carries out his plans, he added, “there will be a revolt on the Republican side.”

Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed to the reporting.