To break the logjam in the Senate regarding aid to Ukraine, the White House is stepping in to facilitate negotiations. Jeff Zients, the White House chief of staff, is currently in talks with a bipartisan group of senators, including Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and James Lankford (R-Okla.) according to a Senate aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Additionally, Zients has been discussing with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), an undisclosed source familiar with the negotiations revealed.
This development comes amidst Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit to Washington, where he is urging lawmakers to pass an aid package. However, Republicans are adamant that they will not approve further aid until substantial concessions are made on immigration. They are seeking limits on the U.S. asylum program and other significant changes to the Biden administration’s border policy.
Despite the urgency expressed by the senators involved, an agreement is unlikely to be reached before the Senate adjourns for Christmas. James Lankford stated on Monday that there simply isn’t enough time for a resolution. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell echoed this sentiment, deeming it “practically impossible” for additional financial assistance to Ukraine to be approved before Christmas.
Complicating the scenario further, Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety, along with the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Representative Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), have called on President Biden to refuse any inclusion of Trump administration immigration policies in the ongoing negotiations for the aid package.
In an official statement, the legislators conveyed their apprehensions, expressing, We harbor profound concerns about the president contemplating the promotion of immigration policies from the Trump era—policies vigorously opposed and campaigned against by Democrats—in exchange for assistance to our allies, a cause already supported by Republicans. Yielding to requests for enduring, detrimental policy alterations for a spending package would establish an alarming precedent.
The involvement of the White House in these negotiations demonstrates a commitment to finding a resolution to the Ukraine aid issue. As the discussions continue, the fate of the aid package hangs in the balance, with immigration policies serving as a significant sticking point. The coming days will be crucial in determining whether a compromise can be reached, providing much-needed assistance to Ukraine while addressing the concerns of both parties.