New US aid for Ukraine by year-end seems increasingly out of reach as GOP ties it to border security

WASHINGTON | A deal to provide further U.S. assistance to Ukraine by year-end appears to be increasingly out of reach for President Joe Biden. The impasse is deepening in Congress despite dire warnings from the White House about the consequences of inaction as Republicans insist on pairing the aid with changes to America’s immigration and border policies.

After the Democratic president said this past week he was willing to “make significant compromises on the border,” Republicans quickly revived demands that they had earlier set aside, hardening their positions and attempting to shift the negotiations to the right, according to a person familiar with the talks who was not authorized to publicly discuss them and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The latest proposal, from the lead GOP negotiator, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., came during a meeting with a core group of senators before they left Washington on Thursday afternoon. It could force the White House to consider ideas that many Democrats will seriously oppose, throwing new obstacles in the difficult negotiations.

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Biden is facing the prospect of a cornerstone of his foreign policy — repelling Russian President Vladimir Putin from overtaking Ukraine — crumbling as U.S. support for funding the war wanes, especially among Republicans. The White House says a failure to approve more aid by year’s end could have catastrophic consequences for Ukraine and its ability to fight.

To preserve U.S. backing, the Biden administration has quietly engaged in Senate talks on border policy in recent weeks, providing assistance to the small group of senators trying to reach a deal and communicating what policy changes it would find acceptable.

The president is trying to satisfy GOP demands to reduce the historic number of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border while alleviating Democrats’ fears that legal immigration will be choked off with drastic measures.

As talks sputtered to a restart this past week, Democrats warned Republicans that time for a deal was running short. Congress is scheduled to depart Washington in mid-December for a holiday break.

“Republicans need to show they are serious about reaching a compromise, not just throwing on the floor basically Donald Trump’s border policies,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday before Republicans made their counteroffer.

But the new Republican proposal dug in on policy changes that had led Democrats to step back from the negotiations, according to the person familiar with the talks. The GOP offer calls for ending the humanitarian parole program that’s now in place for existing classes of migrants — Ukrainians, Afghans, Cubans, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans and Haitians. That idea had been all but dashed before.

Additionally, those groups of migrants would not be allowed to be paroled again if the terms of their stay expire before their cases are adjudicated in immigration proceedings.

GOP senators proposed monitoring systems such as ankle bracelets for people, including children, who are detained at the border and are awaiting parole. Republicans want to ban people from applying for asylum if they have transited through a different country where they could have sought asylum instead. GOP lawmakers also want to revive executive powers that would allow a president to shut down entries for wide-ranging reasons.

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