Democrats and Republicans go into overtime on Ukraine-immigration talks

By Isaac M December 8, 2023

Senate Democrats and Republicans appear ready to go into overtime for negotiations on exchanging restrictions to immigration in exchange for aid to Ukraine.

Republicans have insisted on adding restrictions to legal immigration – particularly asylum and parole, wherein someone who otherwise would not be allowed into the United States is granted temporary status – in exchange for aid to Ukraine.

While many Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, support giving military aid to Ukraine, others – and many of their voters – do not, and GOP senators hope to extract some concessions on immigration from Democrats.

Sens Chris Murphy (D-CT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), James Lankford (R-OK) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) have conferred for weeks but have yet to come to an agreement.

“I think that just more broadly, the question, do we have something that we can credibly go before our conference and say we’re going to have an immediate impact on flows across the border,” Mr Tillis told The Independent. “ So whether it’s parole or whether it’s asylum or or other measures, it’s that and it’s also language that makes absolutely certain that Biden follows the law.”

In addition, Sen John Kennedy (R-LA) told PBS News that President Joe Biden was getting involved in negotiations. Sen Mitt Romney (R-UT) told The Independent that the White House was essential to getting Ukraine aid to show Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that more help to repel the Russian invasion is on its way.

“I think the White House, whether it’s the president or chief of staff or others that they designate, are absolutely essential to move this from a normal negotiation between Republicans and Democrats in the two chambers to actually the White House stepping in and saying, I made a promise to Zelensky that I get him support, and I’m going to deliver on that promise,” he said.

At the same time, Democrats expressed frustration that Republicans are trying to tie an unrelated issue to supporting Ukraine as it risks running out of money to push back against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assault.

“What I can tell you is that I can’t find a time in Congress’s history in which a foreign policy priority is held hostage by a domestic policy priority,” Sen Brian Schatz of Hawaii told The Independent.

The negotiations come after Republicans blocked a vote on a $110.5bn supplemental that included not only aid to Ukraine, but also support for Israel and money to increase personnel at the US-Mexico border. Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) also voted to block due to criticisms of Israel’s operation against Hamas.

Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) told The Independent that Democrats were not acting in good faith.

“Because their view right now is obstinate refusal to move,” he said. Mr Cruz cited the fact that a briefing with administrations from the Biden administration – including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen CQ Brown – devolved into a shouting match, which he blamed on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“And the Democrats seem to have this bizarre view that Republicans are bluffing,” he said, specifically citing the number of apprehensions and people who have crossed the US-Mexico border illegally. “Joe Biden and the Democrats right now simply do not give a damn. If that doesn’t change, this bill will go nowhere.”

But Sen Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) told The Independent that Republicans were holding Ukraine spending hostage.

“The Republicans repeatedly stand up and say repeatedly, that they want money for Ukraine,” she said. “But they seem to think that they can use the fact that Democrats also want to support Ukraine as a way to extract changes in immigration policy that they can’t get with just a straight up or down vote.”

Mr Murphy told reporters that not passing legislation on Ukraine was not an option.

“We can’t,” he said. “We can’t I have to get this done before we go home, before we leave.”

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