Senate delays holiday break to work on immigration, Ukraine & Israel funding

December 15, 2023

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced Thursday afternoon that the upper Congressional chamber will return next week to work on an immigration deal in exchange for aid to Israel and Ukraine.

Both chambers of Congress were scheduled to adjourn for the holidays—and the rest of the year—on Friday. And the House did so after passing the annual defense spending bill on Thursday to fund the military.

“As I have said, if we believe something is important and urgent we should stay and get the job done,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “That is certainly the case with the supplemental. It is important. It is urgent.”

He added that the Senate would return to work on Monday. “That will give negotiators from the White House, Senate Democrats, and Senate Republicans a time to work through the weekend in an effort to reach a framework agreement,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) have insisted that GOP support for more funding to Ukraine in its war against Russia be contingent on tightening U.S.-Mexico border security and immigration laws, and many of their fellow Republican lawmakers have expressed their agreement with this demand.

President Biden has repeatedly urged Congress to pass his $106 billion in supplemental defense spending request that would provide additional funding for Ukraine as well as for Israel in its war against Hamas—and for increased funding for security at the border.

During a speech last week, Biden said that he supports “real solutions at the border” and that he’s “willing to do significantly more.”

On Thursday Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said that the Senate was “going to work as long as there’s daylight,” adding that the chamber had to get the text of their legislation done because House Republicans have “got to see it” before they’ll consider whether to support it. 

On his way out the door, Speaker Johnson took aim at Senate Democrats, writing on social media, “The House took action to secure our border. It’s time for the Senate and the White House to do the same.”

He was referring to an immigration bill called the “Secure the Border Act” that the GOP-led House passed earlier this year.

The bill imposes limits on eligibility for asylum. It also requires employers to use an electronic system “to verify the employment eligibility of new employees,” and it makes new requirements on border security, including continuing construction on the border wall begun under then-President Trump.

Democrats in the Senate have called it a non-starter, but several hard-line House Republicans have said they’ll accept nothing less than the language in the “Secure the Border” Act. 

The White House responded to Johnson’s dig by taking aim back at Republicans, with White House spokesperson Andrew Bates writing in a memo, “As President Biden works hard to make American families safer every day, congressional Republicans are actively undermining our national security interests—both domestically and the world—because they’d rather go on vacation than do their jobs.”

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