McConnell expects Senate to take up Ukraine-border security package next week

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) told reporters Wednesday that he expects the Senate to consider a bipartisan deal on Ukraine funding and border security next week.

McConnell noted that Democrats control the Senate agenda, but he stated his confidence that negotiators will unveil a deal on border security in the next few days.

“My assumption is we’re likely to be on that in the Senate next week,” he announced.

GOP leaders say the remaining sticking point is a disagreement over President Biden’s authority to parole migrants encountered at the southern border into the country.

McConnell, however, argued that Republican lawmakers shouldn’t miss the opportunity to pass a package to address national security threats and reform the nation’s asylum laws and the administration’s expulsion authority.

“This is a unique opportunity to accomplish something in divided government that wouldn’t be there under unified government,” he said.

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He argued that even if Republicans took control of the White House, Senate and House after the 2024 election, they would likely not be able to pass border security reforms because Democrats would block them in the Senate, where most legislation needs 60 votes to pass.

The GOP leader acknowledged that the Biden administration and Senate Democrats will need to cede more ground on the parole issue but sounded confident the two sides would eventually hammer out a compromise.

“We’re hoping to get a credible border package,” he said, adding: “I anticipate that will be before us next week.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) echoed McConnell’s confidence in reaching a deal soon, announcing Wednesday: “We are closer than we have ever been.”

“For the first time, I’m optimistic. For the first time, I think the chances of getting it done in the Senate are greater than not getting it done,” he said. “This is good news.”

Schumer said Senate Democrats gave their lead negotiator, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), “a large round of applause” for bringing the package to the cusp of getting done.

“Passing the supplemental is one of the hardest things the Senate has done in a long time but we got to finish the job,” he said. “Ukraine is already suffering from a lack of armaments and if Ukraine folds we’re going to be suffering the consequences, not for months, but for years to come.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) discusses the latest in immigration negotiations following the weekly policy luncheon on Tuesday, January 9, 2024. (Greg Nash)

The package will include more than $60 billion in aid for Ukraine, $14 billion for Israel and $14 billion to help secure the border and process migrants coming into the country.

McConnell acknowledged, however, that Senate Republicans aren’t sure whether any bipartisan deal could also pass the House, where Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) is under constant pressure from conservative colleagues.

“I don’t know what the House will do. We’re working on trying to get a package out of the Senate that deals with national security and border security in a credible way,” he said Wednesday.

Updated at 3:13 p.m.

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