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Lawmakers unlikely to advance border security, Ukraine funding legislation before Christmas

Lawmakers failed to finalize an agreement on border security framework over the weekend intended to be cemented in the national security supplemental package, as GOP lawmakers are tying border reform as a condition for passing aid to Ukraine.

The upper chamber canceled part of its holiday recess to continue negotiations and schedule a vote on the aid package this week with a new border framework included, but that deal seems to be far from reach before Christmas. 

As talks are set to continue Monday, lead negotiators Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Sen. Krysten Sinema, I-Ariz., conducted negotiations over the weekend with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in Democrat Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office. 

SCHUMER ANNOUNCES SENATE WILL CANCEL PART OF HOLIDAY RECESS AS BORDER TALKS CONTINUE

Sinema said “we’re making progress,” to reporters Sunday, although a written proposal had not been reached. 

“This is the most complicated area of law in the United States. It is very, very complex,” Sinema said. “You have to get it right. If you make a mistake, you fundamentally change law and in ways you don’t intend, and you have years and years of litigation. So it’s very important to be careful and to do it correctly. And that’s what we’re doing.”

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Murphy told reporters “nobody’s voting on this until they have time to review the text,” a complaint GOP lawmakers have sung loud, warning that even if a deal is reached this week, a rushed vote is not something they are willing to do.

In a letter to Senate Republican Conference Chairman Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., 15 Republican senators requested a conference meeting to discuss the “rushed and secret negotiations with Democrats.” The senators also requested the meeting take place no earlier than the week of Jan. 8, when Congress is scheduled to return to the Hill after the holiday break. 

On Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly sent a note to his colleagues that Schumer has a motion to reconsider the vote on the package’s “shell” – or the starting point for the supplemental bill – but there is no confirmation yet about that vote. 

“Without text and sufficient time to review it, it would not succeed,” McConnell said of the legislation. 

Lankford told Fox News Digital last week that if a deal is not reached quickly, then talks would continue in the new year. 

LANKFORD SAYS IF BORDER DEAL ISN’T REACHES SOON, NEGOTIATIONS WILL DELAY UNTIL THE NEW YEAR 

“The White House has been so slow in actually coming to the table and working through the issues,” Lankford said. “This all has to be right – if the whole system doesn’t work, then you can’t do a little bit of border security, you’ve got to actually manage the border,” Lankford said. 

Even if Schumer does bring a procedural vote to the floor this week to move the package forward, GOP senators signaled they would block it from advancing. For most legislation to pass in the upper chamber, 60 votes are needed. Then, it will still need to clear the GOP-led House, and Speaker Mike Johnson already indicated last week he would not force House members to rush a deal before Christmas.

Talks have been ongoing with senators and Biden administration officials, as Republicans have refused to pass some $60 billion in additional aid to Ukraine unless it is tied to strict border security measures, such as immediate screenings for asylum processing, more detention beds and quicker expulsions for illegal entrants. The total amount of supplemental aid the White House first requested in October amounts to roughly $106 billion and includes $14 billion to assist Israel. 

CBS reported last week that the White House was willing to mandate the detention of certain migrants as their claims are considered, as well as a new Title 42-style authority. Title 42 was the COVID-era order that allowed for the rapid expulsion of migrants at the southern border until the Biden administration ended the policy in May.

   

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