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Politico
POLITICO
16 Dec 2023
Anthony Adragna


NextImg:Senators cite progress — but no imminent deal — in border security talks

Senate negotiators huddled for rare weekend talks on Saturday on border security changes, emerging without a deal but vowing to keep talking through the weekend in hopes of landing one.

Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) met for around two hours with administration officials, including Homeland Security Chief Alejandro Mayorkas, and leadership aides as they seek to forge a compromise on border security that could unlock a broader package with aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. They pledged to meet again later Saturday.

“Nobody’s storming out of these rooms, which is good news,” Murphy told reporters. “We need to get a bill passed by the end of the year. I’d love to be able to talk to senators about this [in detail] as quickly as possible.”

He noted: “This is the most difficult — the most interconnected piece of American law. Immigration law is complicated. It’s Byzantine. It’s interconnected.”

All the principal negotiators cited progress in the talks following the Saturday morning meeting, though they declined to discuss specifics. They said they would plan to work through the weekend.

“We really are making progress but it really is incredibly technical and slow,” Lankford said. “We’ll need to have some kind of framework [by the end of the weekend] ... Obviously, everyone’s waiting to be able to hear where things really are and what’s really happening.”

Negotiators began their talks around 10 a.m. and exited the room just off the Senate floor around noon. The senators wore jeans and more casual outfits for the weekend work.

Sinema described herself as “really happy” to reporters following the meeting and said: “This is the most difficult part of American law in terms of complexity, but we’re making really good progress and folks in the room are working collaboratively to try and find workable, pragmatic solutions.”

Mayorkas did not respond to shouted questions as he left.

It’s the latest series of meetings even as Majority Leader Chuck Schumer sent the chamber home for the weekend, while ordering lawmakers to return early next week. He’s vowed to hold a vote on the supplemental international aid package before breaking for the holidays.

The quest for a deal on border security, one of the thorniest domestic political issues, continues in the aftermath of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s latest personal plea last week for aid amid his country’s ongoing war with Russia.