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Nov 28, 2023, 9:27pm EST
politicsNorth America

The Senate could be headed for a game of chicken over the border

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The News

Senate Democrats are barreling ahead with a vote next week on President Biden’s aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, setting up a clash over border policy.

“Just like the Biden administration, our caucus feels strongly that the bills should be together,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said at the Capitol on Tuesday. “We hope to have a vote next week.”

Republicans have said they won’t back Biden’s national security package, which also includes additional funding for border enforcement, unless it includes major policy changes to the federal asylum system aimed at stemming the flow of migrants into the U.S.

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While talks over a potential border deal have shown signs of progress in recent days, some negotiators have voiced doubts about the possibility of an agreement as discussions have crossed into thornier issues.

“I certainly fear that [Republicans] are having a hard time taking yes for an answer,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., one of the Democratic negotiators, told reporters. “We’ve made a bunch of very meaningful proposals that are outside of the traditional Democratic comfort zone.”

Schumer’s comments Tuesday appeared aimed at creating a deadline for a deal, but could also result in a game of chicken between the two sides if one can’t be reached.

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“Republicans are making it difficult, but we’re going to keep at it,” he said.

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., a GOP negotiator, warned that if Schumer does bring a national security bill to the floor without a border deal, Republicans had enough votes to filibuster it. “And we probably have to do that to demonstrate to Democrats who may be wondering the resolve among Republicans on this issue,” he told reporters.

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Republican demands for changes to humanitarian parole, which provides authority for the president to temporarily admit certain immigrants, have become one of the major points of contention in talks. President Biden has used parole to grant admission to Venezuelans and Haitians among others fleeing violence and economic collapse, while discouraging them from crossing over the Southern border. But Republicans fear it could be exploited and allow people in without limits.

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Tillis described parole as a “key sticking point” in the negotiations. In addition, Republicans are seeking what amounts to a ban on migrants applying for asylum after crossing multiple countries to arrive in the U.S., by overhauling what are known as safe third country rules. Democrats are balking at its restrictiveness and pushing to limit its scope, per two people briefed on the talks.

Speaking at his weekly press conference Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he’d spoken with Biden in a phone call last week to underscore that GOP support for the aid package rested on “credible” border policy changes.

“I hope that made the point because I think on our side I’ve been the most enthusiastic supporter of the underlying bill,” McConnell said. “But this has to be a part of it.”White House Press Secretary Karine-Jean Pierre declined to confirm the call.

Outside conservative groups, meanwhile, are already agitating against a potential deal. On Tuesday, Heritage Action President Kevin Roberts blasted out a letter urging Republicans to reject any compromise proposal, and demand the party-line border bill passed by the House, known as H.R.2. “Anything less is unacceptable,” it said.

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