WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden and top congressional leaders met In the White House On Wednesday, the Senate approached bilateral immigration administrationl it would unlock critical military aid to Ukraine.
Optimism about signing the deal reached an all-time high ahead of the meeting, as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters they expect it to come together soon.
“We’re closer than we’ve ever been,” Schumer said. “For the first time, I think the chances of getting it done in the Senate are better than not.”
The top Democratic negotiator in the talks agreed.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., told reporters: “I’ve been a part of enough negotiations to know when you’re getting close to the end, and I feel like we’re there. Did you say something like that three weeks ago?”
Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., called Wednesday’s meeting at the White House “productive,” saying he told Biden and Democrats: “We need to have a change at the border — a fundamental policy change.”
Johnson and House conservatives have been pressing the Senate to pass the Republican-only border bill, known as HR 2, although it has gone nowhere in the Senate and Biden has threatened to veto it. But after a meeting at the White House on Wednesday, Johnson appeared to soften that demand, saying: “We’re not adamant about the specific name of the piece of legislation, but we’re adamant that the elements make sense.”
Schumer called it a “very good meeting” and said there was “a lot of agreement around the table” on the need to address immigration and aid to Ukraine.
“There are a few people in the room who said let’s do the border first, we should do both together,” Schumer said.
McConnell, R-Ky., said earlier Wednesday that he expected the Senate could vote next week on a new immigration package involving aid to Ukraine, funding for Israel and aid to Taiwan.
“We have a number of important international obligations. I think it’s time to move on with the supplement and I expect it to be in front of us next week,” he said.
That prompted a swift rebuke from Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas:
A group of 17 conservative Senate Republicans sent a letter to Wyoming GOP Chairman John Barrasso on Wednesday asking for a special conference to discuss concerns about Ukraine funding. Barrasso quickly rescheduled the meeting for next Wednesday.
But even if the immigration and foreign aid package manages to clear the Senate, it’s unclear what happens next. Members of the House of Representatives did not participate in negotiations between senators and administration officials.
Johnson said the Senate immigration deal is a non-starter in the House. “I don’t think now is the time for comprehensive immigration reform, because we know how complicated it is,” he declared Wednesday. You can’t do it quickly.”
One possibility is for the House and Senate to go into conference, with negotiators from each chamber trying to reach a deal on immigration and border security.
Wednesday’s meeting in the Cabinet room was the first official meeting between Biden and Johnson (although the two spoke briefly in October when the new speaker and other Hill leaders received a confidential White House briefing on the addition). The meeting also coincides with an important moment in Washington when political leaders are discussing other important issues; Congress must pass a short-term recess measure by Thursday to avoid a government shutdown and buy more time to pass 12 appropriations bills.
In addition to Johnson, Schumer and McConnell, others attending the White House meeting included House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., and the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate committees that oversee appropriations, foreign policy, the military and intelligence. . issues.
White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Budget Director Shalanda Young were among the administration officials in attendance.
“Our goal is to give the executive branch more tools to better manage the border while living up to our values as a nation of immigrants,” Murphy said. “This is the most complex area of the American statute. And so it is not surprising that we need time to resolve the last few issues and put them in the text.”