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Trump and January crunch loom on immigration, Ukraine

If a potential “border security-for-Ukraine” deal slips into January — as looks increasingly likely — then the already-fraught political calculations surrounding these negotiations will be made even tougher by Republican presidential politics and Donald Trump.

Just take a look at the January calendar.

The Senate was supposed to adjourn last week until Jan. 8. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he intends to hold a procedural vote on a foreign-aid package this week that includes billions of dollars for Ukraine, even with Republicans certain to vote no.

The House is on recess until Jan. 9. Speaker Mike Johnson has already made clear that he won’t bring members back even if Senate Republicans somehow reach an immigration and border-security deal with the White House and their Democratic colleagues.

The Iowa caucuses will be held Jan. 15, which is also Martin Luther King Jr. Day. That’s only 28 days from now.

Government funding begins running out on Jan. 19. This covers four bills — Agriculture, Energy and Water, MilCon-VA, and Transportation-HUD. The remaining eight bills expire on Feb. 2.

The New Hampshire primary is Jan. 23.

Pay attention to the GOP primary dates especially. If there’s no Senate deal this week – or even if there’s a “framework” that still needs to be fleshed out with legislative text – that means lawmakers could be voting on an agreement next month. That’s just as Republican voters begin casting their ballots for the GOP presidential nominee.

On Sunday, a group of 15 Republican senators demanded a GOP Conference meeting in January before any deal was reached. “Rushed and secret negotiations with Democrats who want an open border and who caused the current crisis will not secure the border,” the senators wrote.

Any delay is especially important given Trump’s truly abhorrent comments on undocumented immigrants on Saturday. Trump, of course, has long used incendiary and even racist comments to describe undocumented immigrants, but he’s now taking it to an even more incendiary level.

On Sunday in Reno, Nevada, Trump called the surge of migrants at the border “a military invasion” and promised to lead the “largest deportation operation in American history.”

It’s hard to see Trump backing any immigration deal, especially if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell supports it. The same goes for Ukraine funding, another huge priority for both McConnell and President Joe Biden. Trump has said repeatedly he would end the war in Ukraine quickly.

Getting Congress to approve Ukraine aid on its own has gotten harder with every passing week. It will only get worse in January when this issue gets caught up in another government-funding debate.

January, in fact, may be the last chance for Ukraine to get more U.S. funding. Numerous members and senators have said the issue is “too important to fail.” But failure looks like a very real possibility at this point. In fact, it’s more likely than not.

Then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy refused to include any Ukraine funding in a short-term government funding bill in September, a clear sign of growing GOP opposition to more aid for the embattled ally. Johnson then pushed through a two-step CR in November that also didn’t include any Ukraine aid.

Now Ukraine is likely to become a dividing line in the Republican presidential primary. And Trump is once again on the opposite side of McConnell.

— John Bresnahan

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