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Senate passes aid package for Ukraine and Israel, but its future is uncertain in the House

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats and Republicans joined together Tuesday morning to pass a $95 billion national security package that includes critical aid for three key U.S. allies — Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

The vote was 70-29. Twenty-two Senate Republicans voted for the package, while two Senate Democrats — Peter Welch of Vermont and Jeff Merkley of Oregon — and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, voted against it.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said after the vote that the Senate’s action would make Russian President Vladimir Putin “regret the day he questioned America’s resolve.”

“And we send a clear bipartisan message of resolve to our allies in NATO,” Schumer said. “With the strong bipartisan support we have here in the Senate, with this vote, I believe that if Speaker Johnson brought this bill to the House floor, it will pass with the same strong bipartisan support.”

The Senate’s vote to pass the foreign aid bill is a significant step forward after months of delays centered on whether tough border security measures would be part of the package. Although Republicans demanded that any bill to authorize aid to Ukraine also address the crisis at the border, they ultimately killed a bipartisan package that married those issues.

The emergency aid bill now faces an uncertain fate in the GOP-controlled House, where conservatives are pressuring Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., to block funds for war-torn Ukraine until America’s southern border is secure. Hours before the vote, Johnson made clear he would not bring the Senate security package to the House floor.

The Senate “should have gone back to the drawing board to amend the current bill to include real border security provisions that would actually help end the ongoing catastrophe. Instead, the Senate’s foreign aid bill is silent on the most pressing issue facing our country,” Johnson said in a statement.

“Now, in the absence of having received any single border policy change from the Senate, the House will have to continue to work its own will on these important matters,” he added.

In an emotional floor speech and in an interview with reporters, Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., pushed back against GOP colleagues who opposed the bill and have argued that Washington needs to focus on protecting America’s borders before those of foreign allies.

“This is not about taking care of others. I certainly care about the people in Ukraine and their freedom or the people in Israel and what they suffered. … But this is, first and foremost, an issue about protecting Americans,” Moran told reporters Monday evening.

“My point is that when we focus on the world, we’re also focusing on America,” he said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the senators for their support in a message on Telegram, saying the U.S. aid “helps to save human lives from Russian terror. It means that life will continue in our cities and will triumph over war.”

“American assistance brings just peace in Ukraine closer and restores global stability, resulting in increased security and prosperity for all Americans and all the free world,” Zelenskyy said.

The Senate-passed package calls for $95.34 billion in aid, including $60.06 billion to help protect Ukraine against the Russian invasion; $14.1 billion in security assistance for Israel; $9.15 billion in humanitarian assistance to provide things such as food, water and medical care to affected civilians in Gaza, the West Bank, Ukraine and other hot spots; and $4.83 billion to support allies in the Indo-Pacific and deter aggression by the Chinese government.

Initially, Senate leaders had hoped to move forward with a foreign aid package that included stricter asylum and border security provisions that was negotiated by Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., James Lankford, R-Okla., and Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz.

But GOP leaders ditched that strategy after former President Donald Trump and top House GOP leaders objected to the bipartisan border deal, saying it would not go far enough to stop the influx in illegal crossings at the southern border. Last week, Senate Republicans blocked the combined border and foreign aid package, forcing the leadership to fall back to Plan B: abandon the border deal and try to push through the stand-alone aid package.

But then, Senate conservatives objected to moving forward with the aid package without attaching border security provisions. Among them was Rand Paul, R-Ky., who tried to slow the new bill’s progress at every step.

“I think we should tackle our problems here first,” Paul told reporters over the weekend as he delayed the passage. “A sizable chunk of the Republican caucus said we should have border security on this bill, and our leadership gave in, and our leadership said, basically, the Ukrainian border is more important than our southern border, and I disagree with that.”

Kentucky’s other senator, Republican leader Mitch McConnell, a longtime defense hawk, was on the other side of that argument. Speaking on the floor in a rare Senate session Sunday, McConnell criticized those in his conference who have objected to sending additional aid to Ukraine, saying they have “the dimmest and most shortsighted views of our obligations.” 

“I know it’s become quite fashionable in some circles to disregard the global interests we have as a global power. To bemoan the responsibilities of global leadership. To lament the commitment that has underpinned the longest drought of great power conflict in human history,” McConnell said.

“This is the idle work for idle minds — and it has no place in the United States Senate,” he said.

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., another of the 18 Republicans who voted to advance the $95 billion package over the weekend, told reporters that failing to pass the foreign aid would send “a bad message” to allies. Tillis said he has had discussions with House members that, in case Johnson does not call a House vote on the package, Democratic and GOP supporters could bypass leadership and sign a discharge petition to pass it.

“I’ve talked with some friends over in Congress” about a discharge petition, “and I think that there’s a general belief that we need to get it done,” Tillis said. “Hopefully, this is something that Speaker Johnson will just take up, because I believe you’d have significant support for it in the Republican conference.”

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