US President Joe Biden met with top-ranking congressional leaders on Wednesday to try to break a deadlock on his proposed $60 billion aid package for Kyiv, which has been stalled for more than a month.

No breakthrough was announced as senators and representatives exited the White House, but it seemed clear that the Senate will take the lead in negotiations and will introduce a bill soon on border reform to set the table for a vote in the House on Ukraine.

Going into the meeting, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) simply repeated the Republicans’ position that deep reforms to immigration policy will precede any vote on Ukraine aid in the lower chamber.

“I’m going to tell the president what I’m telling all of you, what we’ve told the American people: border, border, border,” Johnson told reporters.


Leaving the meeting, he said it was a "productive meeting" but insisted Biden needed to do more on immigration.

“We must insist that the border be the top priority. I think we have some consensus around that table,” he told reporters.

Because Republicans hold only a slim majority in the House, Johnson is beholden to a right-wing faction that has demanded that immigration reform be tied to any international aid package.

Joining Biden and Johnson at the White House were Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and House Minority Leader Hakim Jeffries (D-NY).

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After the meeting, McConnell assured that both parties in the Senate could come to an accord on border policy to open the door to supplemental spending on Ukraine, and “likely” will put forth a bill on that next week, but he couldn’t promise that the House would pass any such Senate-sponsored bill.

“It’s not unusual for the House and Senate to be in a different place on an issue,” McConnell told reporters. “The supplemental [spending bill] in the Senate is designed to actually pass, [but] we can only deal with what’s before us in the Senate.”


The Senate Majority Leader echoed those thoughts with a slightly more positive outlook: “For the first time, I’m optimistic,” Schumer said.

One of the lead negotiators in the Senate on the issue has been Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy, who believes that a vote next week is plausible.

“There are still multiple issues outstanding. None of them are insurmountable. It is possible to vote next week,” Murphy was quoted by Politico as saying. “We’ve blown through every artificial deadline on these talks and negotiations, so I’m maybe a little more sanguine about our ability to wrap this up.”

For his part, Jeffries told Wolf Blitzer on CNN Wednesday night that he believes House Democrats would be on board with an immigration reform bill as long as it was “reasonable, effective, bipartisan, and consistent with American values as a nation of immigrants.” It is unlikely, however, that Democrat votes will make any difference in the Republican-controlled House's final tally, as few conservatives have broken ranks on past such bills.


McConnell, who seemed almost annoyed by earlier comments by the House Speaker comparing Ukraine to Afghanistan, seemed to brush Johnson’s push-back aside and was confident that the Senate could lead by example, and that House Republicans would ultimately get on board.

“This is a unique opportunity to accomplish something in a divided government,” McConnell said.

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