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Schumer frets that Trump could sink future border-Ukraine deal

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Chuck Schumer sees a major threat to the fate of any future deal to pair stricter border policy with billions of dollars in foreign aid: Donald Trump.

The Senate majority leader made clear in a Wednesday interview with POLITICO that he’s counting on the ideological middle of the GOP to save President Joe Biden’s national security spending package — not just from conservative pressures, but from Trump’s scorn. Schumer said he expects roughly five Senate Republicans to vote for a deal no matter what, 15 to vote against it no matter what, and that the rest could all be swayed by Trump as the presidential primary formally kicks off next month.

“He is a huge political force in that party,” Schumer said in an interview with POLITICO Wednesday. “And the question is … will they do the right thing, even though they know that Donald Trump will in a nasty, vicious way, attack them?”

Just weeks away from the GOP’s Iowa caucus — which Trump leads by double-digit margins — lawmakers are bracing for the former president to wade into their business much more often, seeking to sway the party further in his direction. With that comes the threat of Trump actively trying to tank a potential agreement to pair border changes with foreign aid as negotiations slide into the New Year.

A number of Senate conservatives are already in lockstep with Trump in opposing further aid to Ukraine. Lawmakers are also bracing for House conservatives to demand more from a final deal than Democrats are willing to concede; if Trump agrees, he could bolster their cause.

“Their broad middle has a dilemma. They know it’s the right thing to do, to [pass aid for] Ukraine. And they know we have to do something on border. And we’re willing to meet them a decent part of the way,” Schumer said. “But they also have the specter of Donald Trump.”

To be sure, Senate Democrats are also at risk of losing a few from their own party on the package. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voted against advancing the bill earlier this month, citing concerns over the lack of conditions on aid to Israel. A number of other Democrats are upset that border policy changes are on the table at all.

The latest from the border talks: Schumer said he gave a pep talk to border negotiators on Wednesday morning as they spent one more day in the Capitol together. At the moment, despite progress, “no agreement has been made,” he added. “There hasn’t been a handshake on anything.”

“It will not be that we’re unwilling to move on border — we are,” Schumer said. “The Republicans are realizing that.”

In between meetings, both Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) gave a similar prognosis.

“There will be some individuals who won’t be able or won’t be willing to support this package, and that’s okay,” Sinema said.