The Senate on Thursday advanced a $95.3 billion package of aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan that excludes border security measures that Republicans had rejected a day earlier as part of a broader package.
Thursday’s 67-32 procedural vote saw 17 Republicans support the legislation. The tally opens the door for the Senate to move forward with emergency foreign aid that has been bogged down for months as Republicans insisted that any new funding for allies should come only after more restrictive policies were adopted for the southern border.
“This is a good first step,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said after the vote. “This bill is essential for our national security, for the security of our friends in Ukraine, in Israel, for humanitarian aid for innocent civilians in Gaza, and for Taiwan. The bill also strengthens our military at a time when they need it most.”
According to the Senate Appropriations Committee, the bill includes:
* $60.06 billion to support Ukraine in its war against Russia and $481 million for displaced Ukrainians;
* $14.1 billion in security assistance for Israel;
* $9.15 billion in humanitarian assistance for Gaza and the West Bank, Ukraine, and other conflict zones;
* $4.83 billion to support Taiwan and “key regional partners in the Indo-Pacific”;
* $2.44 billion to support U.S. Central Command operations and address expenditures related to conflict in the Red Sea.
* $400 million to help nonprofits and places of worship beef up security.
The package has a long way to go, though. It remains unclear whether Senate Republicans will provide enough votes for final passage and, if they do, whether the House Speaker Mike Johnson will take up the plan despite opposition from many in his conference to providing additional money for Ukraine.
Schumer said he hopes to reach an agreement with Republicans regarding amendments to the bill, which some conservatives are demanding — including some changes related to border policy. But the Democratic leader vowed to push ahead even as the Senate has a two-week recess scheduled to begin next week and some fellow lawmakers are itching to get out of town. “For the information of senators, we are going to keep working on this bill until the job is done,” he vowed.
It may take a while. Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who opposes foreign aid, has already said he won’t agree to speed up the process, which would require the consent of all 100 senators. “I will insist on every minute and every day of it,” Paul said. “I want to be here a week, because I want to talk about what a disaster the bill is and what a mistake it is to send our money to other countries before we fix our own problems here.”
Republicans still have to overcome some internal divisions. “There seems to be a lot of willingness by the Democrats to give us amendments,” Republican Sen. Todd Young off Indiana said, according to Politico. “It's whether we can get everyone [in the GOP] around a strategy of supporting a certain menu of amendments. I think the answer there is going to be no.”
The bottom line: “The current effort could be the last chance to approve aid to Ukraine in the foreseeable future,” NBC News notes.
Thursday’s vote represents legislative progress but is no guarantee that Congress will deliver the aid package for Ukraine and Israel. For now, senators will keep hashing it out. “There's a possibility,” Politico says, “that senators could be watching the Super Bowl from their Capitol hideaways.”