Lead border negotiators are still trying to reach an agreement on a border security framework that would unlock billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine — a condition that Republicans have placed on passing the White House’s national security supplemental aid package that also earmarks aid to Israel and Taiwan.
However, even if a deal is reached, which senators have signaled is not happening this week, the majority of members in the upper chamber have already left town, further pushing negotiations to January and setting the stage for a busy checklist. Lawmakers will have just 10 days when they return to pass FY 2024 appropriation bills.
On Monday night, only 61 senators cast their votes to confirm Martin O’Malley, of Maryland, to be commissioner of Social Security for the remainder of the term ending on Jan. 19, 2025. Seventeen Republicans in total were present.
Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday morning senators “must succeed” on border and Ukraine talks, adding it will take more time for a deal to be reached.
“The details here matter immensely,” he said. Lawmakers involved in the talks have repeatedly said the details of border security are complex but have remained tight-lipped on clarifying what those details are.
Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a staunch supporter of aid to Ukraine, added they are making “slow and steady progress” to reform “years of failure to enact basic common sense border security policy.”
Senate negotiators James Lankford, R-Okla., Krysten Sinema, I-Ariz., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., have all cited “progress” over the last few days as hours of negotiations have punted back and forth with White House officials and Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.
“We finally have everybody at the table and everyone admitting that this is a national security crisis that we do have to address. That’s actually progress. That may seem shocking to a lot of viewers, but that’s taken a long time to be able to get to this point,” Lankford said Tuesday morning on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.”
“We’re just literally trying to be able to say to Democrats, ‘listen, this has to be solved,’” Lankford said. “You don’t want to solve it. We’re going to actually push to get this solved. It’ll be politically beneficial for Democrats to get this solved, to take this issue off the table.”
According to U.S. Customs and Border Proection sources on Tuesday, there were more than 12,600 migrants encountered at the southern border in the last 24 hours, the highest figure recorded in a single day.
Talks have been ongoing with senators and Biden administration officials. 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. President Biden has been urging Congress to take action on the package and Ukraine President Volodymr Zelenskyy made a final plea last week to both chambers in private meetings.
On Sunday, 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 who want an open border and who caused the current crisis,” pleading for “an open and transparent process” beginning in 2024.
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.
Also 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.
Fox News’ Bill Melugin contributed to this report.