Senate awaits hard-fought border deal



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The Senate this week is awaiting news of a border deal that has been subject to high-level negotiations for months.

Leaders hope to begin consideration of the impending agreement in the coming days — even though its chances of clearing the House look bleak.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told attendees at a White House meeting last week that he is aiming to start the floor process for the border-Ukraine bill as soon as this week, sources told Punchbowl News, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) last week said he expects the chamber to move forward with the legislation this week.

Those high expectations — and optimistic attitudes — come even as negotiators struggle to find consensus on the issue of parole, which lawmakers have said is a major sticking point in talks. And leaders are exuding confidence despite House conservatives and former President Trump urging Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) to reject the deal, even before the details have been made public. Johnson himself has also signaled opposition to the nearing agreement.

Also this week, the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees are scheduled to hold transcribed interviews with two former business associates of Hunter Biden, as Republicans on the panel gear up for next month’s deposition with the younger Biden.

Senate leaders eye consideration of border deal

Attention is focused on the upper chamber this week as Washington watches to see if a bipartisan Senate group is able to strike a long-awaited deal on border security, which would unlock aid for Ukraine.

The waiting game — and hope from leaders that consideration of the deal could begin this week — comes days after President Biden said the U.S.-Mexico border has not been secure for 10 years, comments that could up the pressure on senators to land an agreement on the politically prickly issue of border security.

“No, it’s not,” Biden said when asked if the U.S.-Mexico border is secure, adding “I haven’t believed that for the last 10 years, and I’ve said it for the last 10 years. Give me the money.”

A number of hurdles, however, remain, as lawmakers work to address the situation at the southern border.

High up on the list is the issue of parole, which key members have said is a hangup in the talks. Democrats have indicated that they do not want the topic on the negotiating table, but Republicans say the ultimate agreement has to include alterations to the parole policy in addition to changes to the asylum process that they already concur on.

Then there are the dynamics in the House, where any compromise Senate deal is unlikely to advance as is because of staunch opposition among conservatives.

Johnson told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins last week “if the bill looks like some of the things that have been rumored, of course it’s dead in the House, because it wouldn’t solve the problem.” He also declared during a press conference “I don’t think now is the time for comprehensive immigration reform.” Conservatives have cautioned against a compromise deal.

On top of that, Trump last week wrote on Truth Social “I do not think we should do a Border Deal, at all, unless we get EVERYTHING needed to shut down the INVASION of Millions & Millions of people,” a message that could lead some conservatives to reject the upper chamber’s compromise.

House opposition to the Senate agreement would deal a blow to the upper chamber’s negotiators, who have been engaged in discussions over the border for months. It would also spell trouble for the future of aid to Ukraine, especially as the war approaches the two-year mark next month.

Democrats, for their part, are already prepping their side of the blame game if House Republicans reject a Senate deal.

“President Biden has been asking for congressional engagement and leadership. I am optimistic we are very close to finalizing in the coming days a package that will make that possible,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. “And if House Republicans refuse to take it up, to consider it and pass it, then they will own responsibility for another year in which millions of people suffer the journey of coming to our southern border, only to be either turned away or ultimately deported.”

House GOP plows ahead with impeachment inquiry

House Republicans on the Oversight and Judiciary Committees are plowing ahead with their impeachment inquiry into Biden this week — despite most lawmakers being out of Washington for recess — holding transcribed interviews with two of Hunter Biden’s former business associates.

Mervyn Yan, an official with Chinese energy company CEFC whom Hunter Biden reportedly butted heads with over expense reimbursements, will meet with the committee this week. In a November letter, Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said their panels are seeking more information from Yan “about his relationships with the Biden family and individuals affiliated with CEFC.”

Rob Walker, Hunter Biden’s former business partner, is also set to appear before lawmakers.

In a November letter requesting his testimony, Jordan and Comer outlined an LLC he opened that, they allege, “was then used as a vehicle to receive foreign funds and send a percentage of the money to Biden family members.” Lawmakers, however, already have significant information about Walker: the FBI interviewed him in 2020, and he said President Biden had little insight on involvement with Hunter Biden’s business dealings.

The interviews come days after Comer and Jordan announced that Hunter Biden would sit for a closed-door deposition on Feb. 28. The date follows months of back-and-forth between the committees and Hunter Biden’s team, after Hunter Biden said he would only testify in a public hearing and not behind closed doors. Earlier this month, however, he said he would sit for a deposition, prompting both parties to settle on a date.

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