Senate advances aid package

Deal would set aside $60.1B for Ukraine, $14.1B for Israel

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., speaks with members of the media Sunday after a vote on an emergency spending bill to send military assistance to Ukraine and Israel at the U.S. Capitol.
(The New York Times/Valerie Plesch)
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., speaks with members of the media Sunday after a vote on an emergency spending bill to send military assistance to Ukraine and Israel at the U.S. Capitol. (The New York Times/Valerie Plesch)


WASHINGTON -- The Senate on Sunday pushed a $95 billion emergency aid bill for Ukraine and Israel past a critical hurdle, with a bipartisan vote that kept it on track for passage within days.

As former President Donald Trump and a growing number of Republicans oppose U.S. aid to Ukraine, the Senate's leaders argued in strong terms that the money is crucial to pushing back against Russian President Vladimir Putin and maintaining America's global standing.

The vote was 67-27 to move forward on the package, which would dedicate $60.1 billion to helping Ukraine in its war against Russian aggression, send $14.1 billion to Israel for its war against Hamas and fund almost $10 billion in humanitarian assistance for civilians in conflict zones, while also addressing threats to Taiwan and partners in the Indo-Pacific region.

Amid shortages on the battlefield, the package's funding for Ukraine would be used mostly to purchase U.S.-made defense equipment, including munitions and air defense systems that authorities say it desperately needs as Russia batters the country. It includes $8 billion for the government in Kyiv and other assistance.

In a rare Sunday session, 18 Republicans joined Democrats to advance the measure, which leaders hope the Senate will approve as early as Tuesday.

"It's no exaggeration to say the eyes of the world are on the United States Senate," Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader, said on the floor Sunday, appealing to his colleagues to back the bill. "Our allies and partners are hoping that the indispensable nation, the leader of the free world, has the resolve to continue." He maintained that U.S. allies "don't have the luxury of pretending that the world's most dangerous aggressors are someone else's problem and neither do we."

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the majority leader, said on the floor that "we're going to keep working on this bill until the job is done." He commended Republicans who had backed the measure for "working in good faith to get this done" and asserted that it was "essential" for the Senate to pass the legislation. It had been decades, Schumer added, since Congress considered a bill "that so significantly impacts not just our national security, not just the security of our allies, but the very security of Western democracy and our ideals."

Schumer said that if America doesn't assist Ukraine, "Putin is all too likely to succeed."

"The only right answer to this threat is for the Senate to face it down unflinchingly by passing this bill as soon as we can," he said before the vote.

OPPOSITION REMAINS

But steep hurdles still remain for the bill in the Republican-led House, where it faces staunch opposition fueled by Trump's "America First" stance.

The bipartisan endorsement in the Senate came over the bitter opposition of right-wing Republicans who have railed against the measure, contending that the United States should not be continuing to send tens of billions of dollars to bolster Ukraine's security, particularly without first doing more to secure its own border with Mexico against an influx of migration. They have continued to make the argument even after voting last week to kill a version of the aid bill that included a border crackdown, saying it did not go far enough.

"America is being invaded every day at our southern border," Florida Sen. Rick Scott posted on X, formerly Twitter, as voting got underway Sunday. "Why would we vote to send money and resources to secure Ukraine's border before we secure our own?"

Many Republican opponents have also taken issue with the billions of dollars the bill would devote to humanitarian aid for civilians in conflict zones, as well as $7.9 billion in economic aid to prop up Ukraine's domestic infrastructure during wartime.

"We did spend four months promising the American people that we would secure our own border before we focused on other countries' borders," Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said on "Fox News Sunday," adding that he also had "serious concerns about the $19 billion of non-defense aid in there." (Cotton voted last week with most of his party to kill the bipartisan border plan.)

Trump has stoked the resistance, urging Republican lawmakers to reject the bipartisan border plan and egging on House GOP leaders, who promised that it would be dead on arrival in their chamber. Trump has also made no secret of his opposition to funding Ukraine's military campaign to push back a Russian invasion, a stance he underscored during a campaign rally Saturday by suggesting that if reelected, he would not defend U.S. allies against threats from Moscow.

Trump described the United States' role in preserving the global democratic order as strictly transactional, declaring that if a NATO member failed to commit the requisite funds to bolster the organization's collective security, he would refuse to defend them against a Russian attack.

NATO members are expected to commit at least 2% of their gross domestic product to military spending, a threshold that most of its member nations have not met.

Trump also posted on his social media platform over the weekend that the U.S. should consider loaning Ukraine money, not giving it to them, saying that "The United States of America should be 'stupid' no longer!"

TRUMP INFLUENCE

Sunday's action amounted to a repudiation of Trump's stance by Democrats and a determined bloc of Republicans, led by McConnell, who have maintained that it is imperative that the United States continue to come to Ukraine's aid militarily to send a signal to the rest of the world's dictators.

"Deterrence is not divisible; American credibility is not divisible," Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, said on the floor Friday, adding, "You can't say, 'We're going to be real strong in the Taiwan Strait, but you know -- no problem in Ukraine.'"

Democrats predicted that enough Republicans would ultimately reject Trump's pressure for the Senate to pass the measure.

"It has been hard to get Republican votes to support Ukraine, made very difficult by Donald Trump's opposition to Ukraine funding, but I think we're going to get this done," Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation." He warned that the United States would be "on the precipice of a disaster" that could lead Putin to threaten NATO allies if the Senate failed to pass the bill.

Objections from Republicans adamantly opposed to the aid have delayed quick action, forcing the weekend votes as negotiations continue over potential amendments to the legislation.

Schumer has said he is open to amendments -- most of which would be likely to fail -- but he forced senators to stay in session through the weekend to try and speed up the process.

"I can't remember the last time the Senate was in session on Super Bowl Sunday," Schumer said as he opened the session. "But as I've said all week long, we're going to keep working on this bill until the job is done."

Aides were making plans over the weekend to ensure that senators would be able to watch the Super Bowl, carting extra televisions into the Capitol and ordering pizza, in case they were called to continue voting throughout the evening.

The bipartisan coalition that has carried the bill thus far will have to stick together for a few more votes before the Senate votes on approving the foreign assistance package and sending it to the House, where Speaker Mike Johnson is facing threats from the right to try to oust him if he puts a Ukraine aid bill on the floor.

GOP PUSHBACK

The pushback from the hard-liners in the House GOP is one reason Republicans have been so insistent on being allowed to propose revisions to the measure before voting on whether to pass it. The exercise of holding votes on partisan proposals, even if they are doomed to fail, is important, some Senate Republicans explained, to signal to the GOP base where the party stands -- and how impossible it would be to get all of their demands through a Democratic-led Senate.

Before the Senate voted to advance the bill Sunday, all but four Senate Republicans voted on a measure that would have stymied its progress, protesting the fact that senators had not had more opportunity to propose changes to the bill. It did not pass.

Senators were still trying to negotiate a deal on amendments Sunday but it was uncertain whether they could come to an agreement that would move up a final vote. If there continue to be objections, a final vote could come midweek.

The Republican wish list of revisions to the foreign aid bill primarily focuses on the southwestern border. It includes a measure mirroring a restrictive border enforcement bill that the House passed last spring with Republican votes alone.

Democrats have responded with their own demands for revisions, such as a proposal from Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, to give lawful permanent residence to certain immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.

After the demise of the bipartisan immigration plan, neither side is likely to be able to muster the 60 votes necessary to add such provisions to the final bill.

Among the other changes Republicans have been demanding is a measure to strip the economic assistance for Ukraine from the bill. A subset of Democrats has also been angling for votes to limit the impact of Israel's military campaign in the Gaza Strip, including a measure to prohibit Palestinian civilians from being forcibly displaced.

Information for this article was contributed by Karoun Demirjian of The New York Times and by Mary Clare Jalonick and Stephen Groves of The Associated Press.


  photo  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks in the U.S. Capitol on Sunday before a vote on an emergency spending bill to send military assistance to Ukraine and Israel. (The New York Times/Valerie Plesch)
 
 


Upcoming Events