Senate Republicans face a “quandary” with regard to linking a potential border security measure with Ukraine in the national security supplemental package, fueled by confusion about Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s comments in a closed-door meeting on Wednesday night.
Some GOP lawmakers reportedly interpreted McConnell’s assessment of current border negotiations as stepping back from securing an agreement and bowing to Trump’s demands to refuse a border deal with Democrats. But on Thursday, other lawmakers told reporters that McConnell was “laying out the quandary.”
“I think he was just kind of laying out the quandary we’re in,” said Sen. Pete Ricketts, R-Neb., “and laying out kind of what the field looks like. And so we got to see the text before we do anything else.”
Lead Republican negotiator Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., agreed with Ricketts.
ILLEGAL MIGRANTS ARE SLEEPING IN TERMINALS OF BOSTON AIRPORT ON ‘DAILY BASIS’ AS CRISIS OVERWHELMS SHELTERS
Sen. James Lankford is a lead negotiator on securing a border agreement. (Reuters)
“I think he’s laying out the politics,” Lankford told Fox News. “Definitely didn’t get that he was backing away at all. I think he was just expressing what’s the reality on the ground.”
Lankford added that Trump is not involved in the negotiations and that he doesn’t agree with putting off dealing with the crisis at the border for the sake of keeping it a prime election issue for conservatives to tout against Biden.
“I don’t doubt that he wants a perfect deal,” Lankford said of Trump. “So do I on it. But we’ve got to be able to figure out how to be able to do something right now to get as much done as we can possibly get done.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters Thursday that he doesn’t think improving conditions at the border “changes the 2024 outcome.”
“Presidentially, I think, it is what we’re expected to do,” Graham said. “So, I think the best thing for the Republican Party to do right now is try to work with Democrats where you can to make the country safer and stronger.”
According to Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., a “faction” of Republicans want to hold off on addressing the border, which has become a key election issue especially for GOP voters.
“I know there’s a faction that thinks it’s better to do nothing on the border for political gain, but I still think there is a big group of Republicans that wants to help solve the problem at the border,” Murphy said.
Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., said he doesn’t think splitting up Ukraine and border security should be “taken off the table” in an election year.
BORDER BATTLE LINES: DEMS CALL ON BIDEN TO SEIZE CONTROL OF TEXAS NATIONAL GUARD AS GOP ALLIES BACK ABBOTT
Asylum seekers line up in front of the Roosevelt Hotel, converted into a city-run shelter for newly arrived migrant families, in New York City on Sept. 27, 2023. (Selcuk Acar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
“I don’t believe we should take this off the table,” Young said of splitting the issues up. “Certainly not to clear the way for a clean, campaign, debate season. Let’s get something consequential done for the American people. That’s how you instill trust in government in your elected representatives, rather than paying fealty to short-term considerations.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, however, believes the potential border deal would fail to stop the flow of migrants crossing the border. He told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham on Wednesday that “it’s a terrible deal.”
“There’s a lot of the D.C. establishment that wants this deal, but it’s designed not to solve the problem,” he said. “I’m telling my colleagues: Do not do any deal that fails to secure the border. We got to fix the problem or give up on it.”
A bipartisan group of lawmakers has been trying to secure a deal for months with White House officials to unlock $60 billion of aid to assist Ukraine’s war with Russia that’s included in the national security supplemental bill. The Department of Defense has already depleted its available funds earmarked for Ukraine without needing approval from Congress.
The Biden administration is seeking over $100 billion in funding, including $14 billion for the border. But Republicans have demanded limits on migrant releases into the interior, including the use of parole, and negotiators have been attempting to find a compromise.
DEM GOVERNOR COMPLAINS AS MIGRANT SURGE STRAINS HER ‘RIGHT-TO-SHELTER’ STATE’S RESOURCES
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, left, and former President Trump (Getty Images)
Multiple sources familiar with a portion of the proposal told Fox News Digital this week that a part of the deal would tighten the language of the initial credible fear standard for asylum screenings. One source said that those briefing lawmakers had predicted it could lead to the majority of migrants going through the screenings being removed.
While the provisions of the bill are still fluid, negotiators have said they are hoping to have a bill text soon — indicating that the provisions, while fluid, are close to being finalized. GOP lawmakers are growing restless to see the bill text, with some arguing the “secret” negotiations will sidestep conservatives and produce a heavier immigration policy win for Democrats.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
But even if the Senate passes the supplemental, it will be dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled House. GOP lawmakers in the lower chamber want nothing short of H.R. 2, which the House passed last year and includes Trump administration-era border policies like “Remain in Mexico” and construction of a border wall.
It’s unclear when the border deal will be reached or when the supplemental package will be brought to the floor for a vote. Senators are expected to recess on Feb. 9.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.