Senate to restart discussions about the Ukraine–Southern Border with numerous obstacles to address

The Senate will reconvene with a hefty agenda on Capitol Hill on Monday, working on a financial plan to support Ukraine and secure the southern border. However, they face significant challenges to reach an agreement.

For months, Democrats and Republicans have been negotiating a deal to strengthen the country’s policies at the border in exchange for additional aid to allies like Ukraine and Israel. Key figures involved in the negotiations include Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and leaders of both parties. Recently, the talks have expanded to include White House representatives and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

This development comes as surveys show a decline in approval ratings for President Joe Biden’s border policies, with as many as 66% of Americans disapproving. Since Biden’s presidency began, over 6 million illegal aliens have arrived at the southern border, leaving communities along the border overburdened.

The negotiations have been kept under wraps, but some aspects of their discussions have surfaced. These include the possibility of raising the standard of credible fear to seek asylum, which could reduce asylum claims, and increasing detentions and deportations, potentially implementing a Title 42-like policy, giving Border Patrol agents more discretion in turning away illegal aliens.

While the negotiations are resuming after a brief halt, many, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), believe reaching a quick deal by the beginning of next year is unlikely. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) postponed the holiday recess to facilitate further negotiations after the previous impasse.

Republicans are holding out for more comprehensive reforms at the border, a view also shared by House Republicans. Several, including Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Rep. Tony Gonzalez (R-Texas), have expressed that House members need to be included in the negotiations to ensure that the package will gather sufficient votes for passage.

Progressive Democrats have come forth to condemn the negotiations, insisting that any deal will be exclusionary and restrictive. Their objections are likely to add further challenges to the process of reaching a consensus on U.S. border policies.

The differences between Senate and House lawmakers, exacerbated by conflicting proposals, threaten to derail the process entirely, while the White House is at odds with both chambers regarding the urgency of the issue.

Compounding the difficulties of a quick turnaround are disagreements between House and Senate lawmakers of both parties.House Republicans have demanded a package much closer to H.R. 2 in exchange for Ukraine funding—a much higher bar than that currently being pursued by Senate negotiators.Members of both parties, meanwhile, are frustrated by the sense that they’ve been left out of the talks.Rep. Tony Gonzalez (R-Texas) during an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” called the proposals coming from the Senate—including raising the credible fear standard and increasing deportations—”a good start.”But he said more would be necessary to get the package to the required 218 votes in the lower chamber, including designating Mexican cartels as terrorist organizations and “holding these smugglers accountable that cause damage and kill Americans.”Mr. Gonzalez added that negotiations can’t end in the Senate.”The deal between the Senate and the White House is going to be much different than the House,” he said.During an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) echoed Mr. Gonzalez’s comments.”The House has to be at the negotiating table,” Mr. Khanna said. “We want a safe border. We want an orderly and humane process. But … the negotiation hasn’t involved the relevant people.”This sentiment isn’t reserved to House lawmakers.It was echoed by Mr. Cornyn, who said on “Fox News Sunday,” “Senator Schumer thinks there’s going to be some deal cut behind closed doors, and then jam it through the Senate and then jam the House. That’s not going to happen.” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) in Washington on Dec. 5, 2022. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)”We do need to be aware of the fact that this is not just an exercise in the Senate. It’s not just Senate and the president agreeing to something,” he added. “It’s something that can actually pass the House and be signed into law. So this is a very delicate and difficult negotiation. But we’re not going to let this opportunity pass without doing everything we can to secure the border.”Additionally, splits within the House will make passing any comprehensive measure difficult.To even come to the floor, the Senate deal will need Mr. Johnson’s approval.Many House Republicans have indicated that they’re unilaterally opposed to further Ukraine funding—even if paired with a border deal they’d otherwise like.House Democrats, meanwhile, will likely need to agree to the deal, which will be deeply unpopular with the Democratic base, in order to pass any proposed package. Progressives Frustrated Adding to President Biden’s troubles, his work on the deal with Senate Republicans has alienated several progressives, who feel the president is betraying them through the negotiations.Progressives have argued that reports about the deal suggest that it would effectively ban asylum.Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) said that Democrats agreeing to a deal with Republicans would be tantamount to “enabling” what he called “right-wing racism.””I want to speak quickly to the Democrats in the Senate and others who are considering supporting this proposal,” Mr. Castro said in comments to reporters on the steps of the House. “If you do so, you will be surrendering to right-wing racism. And more than that, you will be enabling it.”Rep. Pramilla Jayapal (D-Wash.) echoed the sentiment.”Senate Democrats and the White House must not agree to these extreme demands,” she said. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) speaks during a television interview at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on May 31, 2023. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)Ms. Jayapal, leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has also said, “It is imperative that my Senate colleagues and the White House understand what is on the table are policies so extreme that, if enacted, it would literally be the most exclusionary and restrictive immigration legislation since the racial quota laws of the 1920s. Literally turning the clock back 100 years.”Even some non-progressive Democrats, including Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), have warned against the proposals.”Please don’t go down this road, don’t cave to the extreme Republican immigration proposals,” Mr. Menendez said. “If you do so, you cement your legacy as the asylum denier in chief. That’s not something we want to see.”In any case, the Senate has worked over the weekend to continue moving toward a deal.Still, amid disagreement among members of both parties, between both parties, and between chambers, lawmakers have a lot of work ahead before they can advance any measure.

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