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Dem senator blocks quick passage of Pentagon bill to buy more time for border talks

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Sen. Michael Bennet has placed a hold on the National Defense Authorization Act, hoping to keep the Senate in town to finish entrenched border negotiations that would unlock Ukraine aid. And he’s looking into delaying more legislation if necessary, according to a person close to him.

The Colorado Democrat is concerned that Congress might soon leave without finishing its work to increase border security, discussions that are now tied directly to Ukraine aid. Without agreement from all 100 senators, the annual defense policy bill’s next vote would happen around midnight. Bennet is also considering holding up a Federal Aviation Administration extension, which needs to pass before the end of the year. He will not delay confirmation of nominees, the person said.

There’s new life in those border talks, as the White House and Senate leaders get more firmly engaged and bipartisan negotiators say they are continuing to move forward. But the House is preparing to leave town on Thursday until the new year, with little indication they’ll stick around to pass a supplemental spending bill that includes more cash for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and the border.

Many Republicans say once the House leaves it will become impossible to pass a new foreign aid law this year. Still, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said “we should stay here until we reach an agreement or agree that we can’t.”

“My hope is that we stay,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), the top Democratic border negotiator. “We made progress yesterday and we continue to try to make progress today.”

Katherine Tully-McManus contributed to this report.