White House to intensify push for Ukraine aid and border security deal

By Ted Hesson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The White House will step up its engagement with U.S. lawmakers trying to strike a bipartisan deal that would provide military aid for Ukraine and Israel while tightening U.S. border security, a Democratic senator said on Sunday.

Republicans have insisted that additional funding for Ukraine must be paired with major U.S. border security changes but a bipartisan group of senators trying to broker a compromise have made little progress with less than a week before the U.S. Congress leaves for a Christmas break.

“The White House is going to get more engaged this week,” Senator Chris Murphy, the lead Democratic negotiator, said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

Murphy said it was important to know if Democratic President Joe Biden would sign any prospective deal.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Biden, who is seeking reelection in 2024, has struggled with record numbers of migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. Republicans have criticized Biden for rolling back some restrictive policies of former President Donald Trump, currently the leading candidate for his party’s nomination.

Reuters reported last week that the Biden administration was open to new limits on U.S. asylum as part of a deal to secure funding for allies Ukraine and Israel.

Murphy said the current border security demands by Republicans were “unreasonable” and that they were “playing games with the security of the world” by linking the military aid to U.S. border security measures.

Some Republicans have pushed for border provisions that would allow migrants crossing the border illegally to be quickly deported without the chance to seek U.S. asylum. They have also called for greatly scaling back Biden programs that have allowed hundreds of thousands of migrants to enter lawfully.

Senator James Lankford, a Republican member of the group working on a border compromise, said the U.S. border was “literally spiraling out of control” with 12,000 migrants crossing illegally in a single day last week.

Speaking on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” Lankford declined to detail what policy changes he had proposed but said Congress needed to take steps “to actually begin to control the border.”

Republican Senator J.D. Vance told CNN’s “State of the Union” program that he opposes aid to Ukraine, saying it is “functionally destroyed as a country” that needs to end the war through negotiations with Russia.

“What’s in America’s best interest is to accept Ukraine is going to have to cede some territory to the Russians, and we need to bring this war to a close,” Vance said.

Shalanda Young, director of the White House budget office, said on CBS News that failing to aid Ukraine could encourage Russia to expand the conflict to other U.S. allies in Europe.

(Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington; Additional reporting by David Morgan in Washington; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Don Durfee)