President Joe Biden said he is hopeful a bipartisan immigration package will emerge next week in the Senate that could eventually unlock an impasse over his broader funding request for Ukraine aide.
Speaking to a group of mayors from across the country in the White House on Friday, Biden said he is seeking “massive changes” to US immigration rules. The president has maintained he is open to sweeping policy changes related to immigration to get the deal through. Republicans in Congress have blocked Biden’s request for tens of billions in new assistance for Ukraine as they seek a tightening of new border rules.
“My team has been at the table for weeks now with a bipartisan group of senators to negotiate a deal, including border, because I believe we need significant policy changes at the border, including changes in our asylum system to ensure that we have authorities we need to control the border. And I’m ready to act,” Biden the mayors Friday.
His comments sounded the most optimistic note yet that a breakthrough on immigration – an issue that has nagged at Biden throughout his presidency – could be imminent. The issue has plagued Congress and presidents – Democrats and Republicans – for decades.
The group of mayors was in Washington attending the winter meeting of the United States Mayors Conference. At the conference, several Texas mayors told CNN they were frustrated with the constant political posturing between the federal government and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott over the issue, which they described as a true humanitarian crisis.
While migration from the US southern border has slowed in recent weeks, the number of migrants last year at times overwhelmed border cities. The influx prompted Abbott to take increasingly drastic steps, including installing razor wire along the border and signing a law that makes illegal immigration a state crime, usurping the typical federal authority over immigration-related law enforcement.
Biden met Wednesday with top congressional leaders to discuss the impact on the battlefield in Ukraine if US funding dried up.
Both Biden and those leaders appeared optimistic that a deal could soon be reached. House Speaker Mike Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer described the meeting as “productive.”
Biden reiterated his optimism on Friday.
“I think next week we ought to be able to work out something, at least in the Senate. And I’m hopeful it’s going to be a bipartisan package of senators that are going to pass it, God willing,” Biden said.
He said the question remained whether Johnson would agree to the package.
“Now the question for the speaker and the House Republicans: Are they ready to act as well? They have to choose whether they want to solve a problem or keep weaponizing the issue to score political points against the president. I’m ready to solve the problem,” Biden said.
This story has been updated with additional reporting.
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