Senate Advances $95 Billion Foreign Aid Package

Senate Advances $95 Billion Foreign Aid Package

Schumer called this a historic inflection point.
By Yuval Rosenberg
Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Happy Tuesday! On this date in 1616, William Shakespeare died in his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon at the age of 52. And in 2020, President Donald Trump wondered at a White House press briefing whether disinfectants could be injected into people to combat the coronavirus.

Here’s what’s happening today.

Senate Advances $95 Billion Aid Package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan

The Senate voted Tuesday to advance a $95 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan and is now poised to send the bill to President Joe Biden’s desk tonight or tomorrow.

A motion to end debate on the legislation and move toward a final vote was approved by an 80-19 margin.

The tally indicates that the package is set to clear the Senate with strong bipartisan support, likely including a majority of Republicans despite deep divisions in the party over Ukraine aid. Just over two months ago, the Senate approved a similar $95 billion aid bill in a bipartisan 70-29 vote, though the package now under consideration also includes several Republican priorities that were added in the House. Those include structuring the direct funding for Ukraine as a forgivable loan and a provision that would force the sale of TikTok or see the app banned.

A historic moment: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the moment an inflection point in history.

"Today, the Senate sends a unified message to the entire world: America will always defend democracy in its hour of need," he said. "In a resounding bipartisan vote, the relentless work of six long months has paid off. Congress is sending the supplemental to President Biden’s desk. Getting this done was one of the greatest achievements the Senate has faced in years, perhaps decades. A lot of people inside and outside the Congress wanted this package to fail. But today, those in Congress who stand on the side of democracy are winning the day."

Schumer said the vote will be a victory for persistence and bipartisanship and that the final package closely resembles the Senate’s earlier version of the legislation.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has long advocated for further aid to Ukraine in the face of heated opposition from some members of his party, echoed Schumer’s comments on the significance of the aid. "This is an important day for America and a very important day for freedom-loving countries around the world," he said at a news conference.

But in a speech on the Senate floor, McConnell criticized Biden for being "too skittish" about helping Ukraine quickly and said he "will not mince words when members of my own party take the responsibilities of American leadership lightly." The Kentucky senator also warned that the months-long delay in delivering the aid to Kyiv had harmed the war effort. "Make no mistake: Delay in providing Ukraine the weapons to defend itself has strained the prospects of defeating Russian aggression. Dithering and hesitation have compounded the challenges we face."

A Republican rift remains: McConnell told reporters that his party has tended to be isolationist when there’s a Democrat in the White House and he criticized former Fox News host Tucker Carlson for leading the opposition to Ukraine aid and influencing Republicans. He added that Trump had "sort of mixed views" on the matter and then "didn’t seem to want us to do anything at all."

Seventeen Republicans voted against advancing the aid package on Tuesday: Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Mike Braun of Indiana, Ted Budd of North Carolina, Ted Cruz of Texas, Steve Daines of Montana, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Eric Schmitt of Missouri, Rick Scott of Florida, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama and JD Vance of Ohio. They were joined by Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent.

As Republicans fight over how engaged the United States should be globally and how much it should be spending on foreign aid and overseas conflicts, McConnell said he believes his more interventionist view has prevailed. "I think we’ve turned the corner on the isolationist movement," he said, pointing out that 31 Republicans voted yes on today’s procedural vote, compared to 22 who backed the aid package in February.

Number of the Day: $2.4 Trillion

We told you earlier this month that global defense spending had reached a record $2.2 trillion last year. A study released Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute puts that total even higher: over $2.4 trillion.

The new report says that world military spending rose for the ninth straight year in 2023 and the 6.8% increase least year was the largest year-over-year increase since 2009.

"The world military burden—defined as military spending as a percentage of global gross domestic product (GDP)—increased to 2.3 per cent in 2023," the report says. "Average military expenditure as a share of government expenditure rose by 0.4 percentage points to 6.9 per cent in 2023 and world military spending per person was the highest since 1990, at $306."

U.S. military spending came to $916 billion, which was far and away the most of any country, representing 37% of the global total. China, second on the list, spent an estimated $296 billion, about 12% of the world total. Russia’s military spending, estimated at $109 billion, put it third on the list. Ukraine, ranked eighth, spent nearly $65 billion on its military last year, which was 58% of the government’s total spending and 37% of the country’s gross domestic product.

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