NBC News – Dec. 14, 2023, 12:04 PM EST / Updated Dec. 14, 2023, 12:07 PM EST
Negotiations over border security, she told NBC News, are important to “ensuring that we’re fighting Putin and protecting and supporting our greatest ally in the Middle East, Israel.”
WASHINGTON — Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., emphasized Thursday that Congress must negotiate a legislative agreement on immigration because of the “humanitarian crisis” along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“My opinion is that we must work until we find the solution because failure is not an option here,” Sinema said in an interview with NBC News when asked if the Senate should remain in Washington until a deal has been reached.
Sinema, who has been leading talks alongside Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and James Lankford, R-Okla., said the negotiations over border security provisions are an important element to “ensuring that we’re fighting Putin and protecting and supporting our greatest ally in the Middle East, Israel.”
Speaking in her hideaway office in the Capitol, Sinema deflected on questions about whether Congress can pass an emergency measure to address border security and provide U.S. aid to Israel and Ukraine before leaving for the year.
“I’m not interested in debating the timelines,” she said. “What I am interested in doing is moving the process forward. And what I’ve demonstrated in my five years in the United States Senate is that I have a proven track record of bringing disparate interests and groups together, finding common ground and moving forward with bipartisan solutions. So the timeline is not a question for me.”
Sinema declined to share details about the talks among lawmakers, including those that have been reported by NBC News “because I want to get us to an agreement.”
“What I will say is that all the options that are on the table and under discussion right now are realistic and pragmatic options and folks have a lot of emotions about them,” she said. “But the reality is, is that these are realistic and pragmatic options that actually solve the crisis and allow us to move forward.”
Some of the details under negotiation include an expansion of expulsion authorities and migrant detention to try to control the border. The talks appeared to progress on Wednesday, though there was still no agreement reached and Congress is about to leave Washington for the holidays and is not expected to return until January.
Responding to frustrations among the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and a Capitol Hill Democrat calling proposals on the table “unimaginably cruel,” Sinema said, “Well, what’s unimaginably cruel are the folks and the images that we see of folks and families sitting in the desert … down at Lukeville there are individuals who are sitting out in the desert without access to restrooms, without access to food and without water, simply waiting to be processed by Customs and Border Patrol.”
Sinema dismissed a question about running for re-election as her six-year term is set to expire at the end of next year.
“‘I’m not going to answer that question today because as you can tell, I’m 100% focused on delivering a real result” on immigration, she said.
Sinema told NBC that she has a good relationship with House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., saying that she got to know him during her time serving in the lower chamber. She said she hopes “to be talking with him very soon.”