Mitch McConnell, the U.S. Republican Party's Senate Minority Leader, said in private talks Jan. 25 that he still supports a bipartisan border security deal tied to funding for Ukraine, Politico reported.
McConnell on Jan. 24 had surprised some members of his party by saying that it might be necessary to separate border security from the issue of Ukraine aid, due to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's ascendancy in the primary elections.
Since fall 2023, partisan infighting in Congress has stalled a supplemental funding bill that includes $61 billion in aid for Ukraine. Republicans in the Senate blocked the passing of the bill, insisting that further military aid must include significant changes to U.S. border policy.
McConnell told reporters on Jan. 17 that a Senate deal was in progress and could be ready by the following week.
The Wall Street Journal then reported on Jan. 18 that U.S. President Joe Biden had made concessions to Republican demands regarding increased security at the southern border.
At a closed-door meeting of Republican senators Jan. 24, McConnell reportedly made an abrupt about-face, saying "the politics on this have changed." McConnell said that passing a bipartisan agreement on border security could have political ramifications for Trump as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
"We don't want to undermine him," McConnell reportedly said.
Trump has made immigration a key issue of his presidential campaign, and has advocated for mass raids, family detention centers, and funds to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.
Other senators said that McConnell's remarks in the meeting had been misconstrued, and that his statements in support of the agreement on Jan. 25 reflect his true views on the matter.
“The ambiguity that was around for the last few hours has been clarified for all of us. He’s fully behind the border bill, fully behind the support for Ukraine and is not going to let political considerations of any campaign stand in the way of his support,” said Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican.
Sen. James Lankford, the Republican party's lead negotiator on a border agreement, said he hopes the deal will be ready to present to the public in a matter of days.
“Certainly not weeks, but we're hoping it's days to try to get it out. But it's not today,” Lankford said.