Senators who are trying to strike a deal on a border security bill with the White House returned to in-person talks Tuesday and resumed Wednesday afternoon, but it’s unlikely a deal will be reached in the upcoming week.
Last month, the Senate canceled part of its holiday recess – per the order of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. – to continue negotiations. But officials were unable to reach an agreement, so they left town and met a few times virtually, according to a source familiar with the talks.
Lead Senate negotiators James Lankford, R-Okla., Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., began negotiations with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and other Biden officials a week before the upper chamber was scheduled to go on its holiday recess.
“We continue to move forward, not backward,” Murphy told reporters on Friday. “We don’t yet have a final agreement. And I think the nature of this agreement is going to be so complicated that we’re not going to know whether we have the votes until we bring it back to our caucuses.”
Last month, Lankford said in a statement that “significant progress has been made, but there is still no final agreement, much less legislative text.”
“It is clear there are multiple unresolved issues that will take weeks to resolve rather than hours,” he added.
Meanwhile, 60 House Republicans, including Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., ended their holiday break early to visit Eagle Pass, Texas, on the southern border Wednesday.
House Republicans have vowed that even if a deal in the upper chamber is struck, it won’t receive support from the GOP-controlled House unless it includes elements of H.R. 2, or the Secure the Border Act. One of the policies in the resolution would impose stricter standards for asylum eligibility.
The Senate will return to session on Monday, but it’s unlikely there will be an agreement upon return. Plus, 15 GOP lawmakers sent a letter to Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Barrasso, of Wyoming, requesting a conference meeting next week to discuss the ongoing negotiations, which they have claimed are clouded by secrecy.
“Rushed and secret negotiations with Democrats who want an open border and who caused the current crisis will not secure the border. The American public deserves an open and transparent process,” the senators wrote last month.
Republicans tied the condition of increased aid to Ukraine to the implementation of stricter border security measures in the national supplemental security request prior to the holiday recess. However, the demand for this linkage, which encompasses aid to Israel and Taiwan alongside Ukraine, arose soon after President Biden urged its passage in October.
Murphy said he opposes this approach.
“I’ve worried from the beginning, that tying immigration to Ukraine was a recipe for failure,” he told reporters last week.
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. Biden urged Congress to take swift action on the package, and Ukraine President Volodymr Zelenskyy made a final plea in December to both chambers in private meetings.
The White House has sent more than $100 billion to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began in February 2022. Biden announced the administration would send $250 million in additional military aid to the Eastern European nation last week.
Fox News Digital has reached out to the White House for comment.