US Senate to vote on Ukraine funding, border security next week

By Makini Brice and Ted Hesson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Senate will vote on military aid for Ukraine and Israel next week as negotiations continue over changes to U.S. border security policy that would be tied to the funding, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Thursday.

The Senate will delay its holiday break, which had been due to start Friday, and convene Monday to give negotiators time to reach an agreement, Schumer said.

“So much hangs on our success,” Schumer said. “We know the world is watching.”

Democratic President Joe Biden has been urging lawmakers to pass a supplemental aid package to provide $50 billion in new security to Ukraine as it fights Russia, as well as $14 billion for Israel as it wages war against Hamas in Gaza.

Republican House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson, as well as Republicans in the Democratic-majority Senate, have repeatedly said they will only vote for that aid if it is paired with new controls for the U.S.-Mexico border.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, speaking on his return home after meetings in Washington, said he expected Congress would soon pass the required measures.

In his nightly video address, Zelenskiy said he had heard from House Speaker Johnson “words expressing respect for our people, for our fight. There was important advice, important agreements.”

“We will continue our work,” he said. “We expect that Congress will approve the key decisions in the nearest future,” he said. “We have to win.”

Any deal reached in the Senate, which Democrats control by a 51-49 majority, would also need to win the approval of the House, which Republicans control 221-213, before passing into law. House lawmakers left Washington as scheduled on Thursday to begin their holiday recess.

“We’re making progress and the White House is engaged, which is good. Everything’s encouraging,” Senator John Thune, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, told reporters, cautioning that “right now, they’re still talking concepts.”

Still, some senators from both parties have expressed concerns.

Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican, said negotiators had made progress but remained “very far apart”. Cotton said Democrats have not put their proposals in writing and have not addressed a Republican demand to curtail Biden’s “parole” authority, which Biden has used to allow hundreds of thousands of migrants to enter the U.S. legally.

Biden said this month that he was open to significant concessions on border security to strike a deal with Republicans, but some Democrats have criticized White House proposals reported by Reuters and other news outlets that would limit access to U.S. asylum and step up deportations.

(Reporting by Makini Brice and Ted Hesson in Washington; Additional reporting by Ron Popeski, writing by Moira Warburton; editing by Scott Malone, Jonathan Oatis, Deepa Babington and Edwina Gibbs)