As House adjourns, Senate delays holiday recess to work on immigration deal

WASHINGTON — As the House adjourned Thursday for Christmas recess with plans to return in the new year, the Senate decided to delay its holiday break and return next week to hammer out a deal on immigration and aid to Ukraine and Israel.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that shift on the floor Thursday afternoon, one day after immigration negotiators expressed some signs of optimism in reaching a deal.

“Over the last few days, negotiations on a path forward to getting the national security supplemental done have made good progress. As I have said, if we believe something is important and urgent we should stay and get the job done,” Schumer said. “That is certainly the case with the supplemental. It is important. It is urgent.”

“So for the information of all senators, after we finish today, the Senate will return on Monday,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said. “That will give negotiators from the White House, Senate Democrats, and Senate Republicans a time to work through the weekend in an effort to reach a framework agreement.”

Senate Republicans say an immigration deal is crucial to unlocking their votes for passage of U.S. aid to Ukraine and Israel, which is a high priority for President Joe Biden.

Schumer said the Senate hopes to “act as soon as we are ready to move forward on the supplemental.” Some Democrats hope the chamber can pass it next week, but that would be a steep uphill climb as the negotiators have yet to agree on a framework.

“We’re going to work as long as there’s daylight. We’ll still definitely be working,” Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., the GOP’s lead negotiator, said on Thursday afternoon just before the Senate left for the weekend.

“We’ve got to get text done,” he said, adding that House Republicans have “got to see it” before they consider whether to support it.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., the chief Democratic negotiator, said: “We’re gonna obviously work through the weekend and hope to keep capitalizing on progress.”

“It’s not easy, but this is an emergency,” he said. “And we don’t have the benefit of a clear schedule in January.”

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said he plans to return next week but that some Republicans don’t want to come back.

“I just know that some of my colleagues aren’t going to want to come back because they don’t think we have enough time,” he said.

With the lower chamber expected to return on Jan. 9, House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., took aim at the Senate on his way out.

Johnson was referring to a Republican border and immigration package that the House passed earlier this year, known as H.R. 2, which Democrats in the Senate say is a nonstarter. Several House conservatives have said they will accept nothing less than H.R. 2 in exchange for passing Ukraine aid.

The White House chided House Republicans for adjourning for the year after ignoring Biden’s national security funding package.

“As President Biden works hard to make American families safer every day, congressional Republicans are actively undermining our national security interests — both domestically and the world — because they’d rather go on vacation than do their jobs,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a memo.