White House and Senate negotiators are racing to reach a border deal, with aid to Ukraine at stake.

Ena Varenzia/Reuters

A Ukrainian rides in a T-64 tank near the town of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on December 13, 2023.


Democrats and Republicans are urgently trying to reach an agreement on border policy changes before senators leave town for the holidays, but many congressional aides doubt the possibility of reaching an agreement as significant disagreements remain.

President Joe Biden has repeatedly called on Congress to approve his additional national security request, which includes billions of dollars in funding for Ukraine, Israel and border security, among other priorities. He warned that the money was essential to Ukraine, which the United States had pledged to support in its fight against Russia, and more broadly, to American national security.

But the package introduced in October remains stalled.

For weeks, negotiators on both sides wrestled over linking tougher immigration restrictions to additional funding for Ukraine and Israel. Republicans insist that change is needed at the southern US border, where the influx of migrants has drained federal resources, to move forward with funding for Ukraine.

During an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Senator Lindsey Graham said that Republicans “feel like we’re getting cornered.” We are not close to reaching an agreement. “He’s going to next year.”

In a sign of the challenges negotiators face as they try to reach an immigration deal that could pass the Senate this week, 15 GOP senators, including Graham, are calling for a special meeting in January to discuss the negotiations. In a letter sent Sunday to Senator John Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, senators criticized the “rushed and secretive” talks.

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If Congress leaves town for the holidays without reaching a deal, the White House will have to figure it out Difficult choices about supplying allies like Ukraine At the expense of American military preparedness. The supplemental request also includes $14 billion for border security.

Over the weekend, senior White House officials, including White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients, called on Republican and Democratic lawmakers to try to reach consensus on border policy changes, two sources familiar with the discussions told CNN.

But potential changes to tighten asylum, among other tougher immigration measures, are difficult to accept with Democrats, who worry that the White House is adopting Trump-era immigration policies.

On Saturday, Zients held a phone call with some members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which raised concern about the direction of the border talks, the source said. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was also on the call.

Another source said major sticking points remain as negotiators try to reach an agreement. They include measures that result in the expulsion of migrants at the US-Mexico border – effectively preventing migrants from seeking asylum at the border; Limiting the use of parole, which allows immigrants to temporarily live in the United States on a case-by-case basis; The source said that mandatory imprisonment.

Other proposals include raising the criterion of credible fear for asylum seekers and expanding the use of expedited removal procedures.

Republicans have also shown renewed interest in the Safe Third Country Agreement, which would prevent migrants from seeking asylum in the United States if they pass through other countries before arriving at the U.S. border, the source said.

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For Biden, the politics right now are complicated. While losing support from the Democratic base could cost him in next November’s election, the perception of doing nothing on border security could have broader and lasting effects as well.

Migrant concerns at the US-Mexico border have reached record levels during Biden’s presidency. While Biden officials have stressed that the arrests reflect record immigration in the Western Hemisphere, the issue is sure to be a drag in the 2024 presidential election as Republicans point the finger at the president’s immigration policies.

Republicans and Democrats have been deadlocked for decades over immigration. But the contours of today’s border agreement are much narrower than in previous negotiations when additional funding for border security was often coupled with legalization for immigrants who were already living in the United States illegally.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia said on Sunday that he was “very encouraged” about the status of the talks.

I’ve been communicating with negotiators, colleagues, and friends on both the Democratic and Republican sides, as well as the White House as well, and I’m very encouraged. “I am very optimistic that they are moving in a very positive way.”

“I know the House has been opposed, but I can assure you that the House is not going to get anything done unless they start working together in a bipartisan way on this very troubling and challenging legislation,” Manchin said.

This story and headline have been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Manu Raju contributed to this report.

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