Top US Lawmaker ‘Very Optimistic’ on Ukraine, Border Deal

Washington — As U.S. congressional negotiators worked deep into the weekend in a bid to craft an urgent deal linking aid to Ukraine and Israel to new border security, one top Democrat said he was “very optimistic” about a resolution.

“I’m very encouraged. I’m very optimistic they’re moving in a very positive way,” Senator Joe Manchin, a centrist Democrat, told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

He said he had been in touch with negotiators from both parties, as well as the White House, and “they understand that the border is broken” and needs to be fixed.

Three Senate negotiators — independent Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat Chris Murphy and Republican James Lankford — met Saturday and were to meet again Sunday in search of a compromise that would also include aid for Taiwan.

All three cited progress after the Saturday talks, Politico reported.

But at least one senior Republican senator, Lindsey Graham, sounded a more cautious note Sunday, suggesting that some lawmakers were bridling at the pressure for a quick deal.

“The bottom line here is we feel like we’re being jammed,” Graham told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” We’re not anywhere close to a deal. It’ll go into next year.”

The Biden administration has stressed the urgency of getting new aid, particularly as Ukraine faces another winter under Russian attack.

Democrats support a proposed $61 billion package of military, humanitarian and macroeconomic assistance.  

But Graham and other Republicans insist that Congress must first shore up border security to stem a continuing influx of migrants.

He said a compromise was possible but warned Democrats that “I will not help Ukraine, Taiwan or Israel until we secure a border that’s been obliterated.”

Lawmakers had been due to go into recess Thursday evening.

But Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday that the chamber would return Monday, giving negotiators time to reach “a framework agreement.”

Any deal reached in the Senate would also need to pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which has begun its holiday recess. Its members can in theory be recalled to Washington to vote if an agreement is reached.