New US Aid For Ukraine Seems Unlikely 12/10 09:19
A deal to provide further U.S. assistance to Ukraine by year-end appears to
be increasingly out of reach for President Joe Biden. The impasse is deepening
in Congress despite dire warnings from the White House about the consequences
of inaction as Republicans insist on pairing the aid with changes to America's
immigration and border policies.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A deal to provide further U.S. assistance to Ukraine by
year-end appears to be increasingly out of reach for President Joe Biden. The
impasse is deepening in Congress despite dire warnings from the White House
about the consequences of inaction as Republicans insist on pairing the aid
with changes to America's immigration and border policies.
After the Democratic president said this past week he was willing to "make
significant compromises on the border," Republicans quickly revived demands
that they had earlier set aside, hardening their positions and attempting to
shift the negotiations to the right, according to a person familiar with the
talks who was not authorized to publicly discuss them and spoke on condition of
The latest proposal, from the lead GOP negotiator, Sen. James Lankford,
R-Okla., came during a meeting with a core group of senators before they left
Washington on Thursday afternoon. It could force the White House to consider
ideas that many Democrats will seriously oppose, throwing new obstacles in the
Biden is facing the prospect of a cornerstone of his foreign policy --
repelling Russian President Vladimir Putin from overtaking Ukraine -- crumbling
as U.S. support for funding the war wanes, especially among Republicans. The
White House says a failure to approve more aid by year's end could have
catastrophic consequences for Ukraine and its ability to fight.
To preserve U.S. backing, the Biden administration has quietly engaged in
Senate talks on border policy in recent weeks, providing assistance to the
small group of senators trying to reach a deal and communicating what policy
changes it would find acceptable.
The president is trying to satisfy GOP demands to reduce the historic number
of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border while alleviating Democrats'
fears that legal immigration will be choked off with drastic measures.
As talks sputtered to a restart this past week, Democrats warned Republicans
that time for a deal was running short. Congress is scheduled to depart
Washington in mid-December for a holiday break.
"Republicans need to show they are serious about reaching a compromise, not
just throwing on the floor basically Donald Trump's border policies," Senate
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday before Republicans made
But the new Republican proposal dug in on policy changes that had led
Democrats to step back from the negotiations, according to the person familiar
with the talks. The GOP offer calls for ending the humanitarian parole program
that's now in place for existing classes of migrants -- Ukrainians, Afghans,
Cubans, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans and Haitians. That idea had been all but
Additionally, those groups of migrants would not be allowed to be paroled
again if the terms of their stay expire before their cases are adjudicated in
GOP senators proposed monitoring systems such as ankle bracelets for people,
including children, who are detained at the border and are awaiting parole.
Republicans want to ban people from applying for asylum if they have transited
through a different country where they could have sought asylum instead. GOP
lawmakers also want to revive executive powers that would allow a president to
shut down entries for wide-ranging reasons.
Further, after migrant encounters at the border recently hit historic
numbers, the GOP proposal would set new guidelines requiring the border to be
essentially shut down if illegal crossings reach a certain limit.
Lankford declined to discuss specifics after the Thursday meeting, but said
he was trying to "negotiate in good faith." He said the historic number of
migrants at the border could not be ignored. The sheer number of people
arriving at the border has swamped the asylum system, he said, making it
impossible for authorities to adequately screen the people they allow in.
"Do you want large numbers of undocumented individuals and unscreened
individuals without work permits, without access to the rest of the economy?"
The lead Democratic negotiator, Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, did not
quickly respond to the GOP proposal.
Senators had made some progress in the talks before Thursday, finding
general agreement on raising the initial standard for migrants to enter the
asylum system -- part of what's called the credible fear system. The
administration has communicated that it is amenable to that change and that it
could agree to expand expedited removal to deport immigrants before they have a
hearing with an immigration judge, according to two people briefed on the
private negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Immigration advocates and progressives in Congress have been alarmed by the
direction of the talks, especially because they have not featured changes aimed
at expanding legal immigration.
Robyn Barnard, director of refugee advocacy with Human Rights First, called
the current state of negotiations an "absolute crisis moment." She warned that
broadening the fast-track deportation authority could lead to a mass rounding
up of immigrants around the country and compared it to the situation during the
Trump administration. "Communities across the country would be living in fear,"
But Republican senators, sensing that Biden, who is campaigning for a second
term, wants to address the historic number of people coming to the border, have
taken an aggressive stance and tried to draw the president directly into
"The White House is going to have to engage particularly if Senate Democrats
are unwilling to do what we are suggesting be done," said Sen. John Thune,
R-S.D., at a news conference Thursday.
The White House has so far declined to take a leading role in negotiations.
"Democrats have said that they want to compromise. Have that conversation,"
said White House press secretary Karine-Jean Pierre.
After every GOP senator this past week voted not to move ahead with
legislation that would provide tens of billions of dollars in military and
economic assistance for Ukraine, many in the chamber were left in a dour mood.
Even those who held out hope for a deal acknowledged it would be difficult to
push a package through the Senate at this late stage.
Even if senators reach a deal, the obstacles to passage in the House are
considerable. Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., has signaled he will fight for
sweeping changes to immigration policy that go beyond what is being discussed
in the Senate. Also, broad support from House Democrats is far from guaranteed,
as progressives and Hispanic lawmakers have raised alarm at curtailing access
"Trading Ukrainian lives for the lives of asylum seekers is morally bankrupt
and irresponsible," Rep. Delia Ramirez, D-Ill., posted on X, the platform
formerly known as Twitter, as part of a coordinated campaign by Hispanic
The unwieldy nature of the issue left even Lankford, who was one of the few
senators optimistic that a deal could be reached this year, acknowledging the
difficulty of finding an agreement in the coming days.
"There's just a whole lot of politics that have been bound up in this," he
said as he departed the Capitol for the week. "Thirty years it hasn't been
resolved because it's incredibly complicated."