Senate to vote next week on bipartisan border bill, Schumer says

The US Senate will vote next week on a bipartisan bill that would strengthen security at the US-Mexico border and also provide more aid to Ukraine and Israel, the chamber’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, said on Thursday.

“We cannot simply shirk from our responsibilities just because the task is difficult,” Schumer said on the Senate floor, adding that the text of the package will be released by Sunday, with the initial vote taking place no later than Wednesday.

Senate negotiators have been in talks over the package for months. Donald Trump, who is seeking re-election to the White House and is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, has urged lawmakers to reject the deal.

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The Republican House speaker, Mike Johnson, has also voiced skepticism about the talks, saying that if it emerged from the Senate the bipartisan legislation would be “dead on arrival” in the GOP-controlled House.

A bipartisan group of senators have for weeks been looking for an agreement to implement stricter immigration policies and stop undocumented migrants at the southern border with Mexico. Numbers have fluctuated during Joe Biden’s presidency but are currently at record levels.

Republicans have named passing the legislation as their price for approving aid to Ukraine, whose cause rightwing lawmakers have soured on as the war has dragged on and as Donald Trump, who has been ambivalent about sending arms to Kyiv, draws closer to winning the Republican presidential nomination.

Congresses and presidents since the days of George W Bush have tried and failed to reform the US’s system for admitting workers and immigrants, including screening undocumented migrants and asylum seekers.

The long odds of the latest negotiations succeeding were underscored last week when the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, told his lawmakers that because Trump wanted to campaign on immigration reform, he doubted that the party would support any agreement that emerges from the talks. Biden is suffering at the polls on economic factors but also on conservative voters calling for greater security at the border.

Senators from both parties expressed outrage over Trump’s apparent and sudden influence after almost daily talks. Chris Murphy, the main Democratic negotiator in the talks, said: “I hope we don’t live in a world today in which one person inside the Republican party holds so much power that they could stop a bipartisan bill to try to give the president additional power at the border to make more sense of our immigration policy.”

The following day, Politico reported that McConnell had changed his tone, telling Republicans in a meeting that he still supported the talks.

Now Schumer has signaled that the bill may be ready in the Senate. Details of what is in the legislation have not been disclosed.

Meanwhile, the homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, who has been involved in the talks, is facing a rare impeachment of a cabinet member by the House, over his handling of the southern border.

Reuters contributed reporting

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