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US Senate heads toward final passage of Ukraine aid bill

  • World, NEWS
  • 3 min read

The Democratic-led U.S. Senate was expected to vote early on Tuesday for final passage of a $95.34 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, amid growing doubts about the legislation’s fate in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Soon after lawmakers swept aside the last procedural hurdle facing the legislation late on Monday, Republican opponents of the bill took to the Senate floor for an overnight marathon of speeches. Aides predicted that a vote on passage could begin before 7 a.m. EST (1200 GMT) on Tuesday.

Senate passage appears certain. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has been able to deliver the support of least 17 members of his party conference, more than enough to exceed the 100-seat chamber’s 60-vote threshold for passage.

But both houses of Congress must approve the legislation before Democratic President Joe Biden can sign it into law. And the bill faces long odds in the House, where Republican Speaker Mike Johnson faulted the measure for lacking conservative provisions to stem a record flow of migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border.

“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,” Johnson said in a statement issued late on Monday.

“America deserves better than the Senate’s status quo,” said Johnson, who has suggested in the past that the House could split the legislation into separate bills.

Senator John Thune, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, said it was not clear what Johnson would do.

“The House, I assume, is going to move on something. Obviously, they’re going to address Israel,” Thune said.

Hardline Republicans predicted that the legislation would be dead on arrival in the House.

“The bill before us today … will never pass in the House, will never become law,” Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida said in an early morning floor speech.

The legislation includes $61 billion for Ukraine, $14 billion for Israel in its war against Hamas and $4.83 billion to support partners in the Indo-Pacific, including Taiwan, and deter aggression by China.

It would also provide $9.15 billion in humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, Ukraine and other conflict zones around the globe.

Republicans have demanded for months that the foreign aid bill include border restrictions.

But a bipartisan border deal, negotiated over the course of months, ran afoul of most Senate Republicans after Donald Trump, the party’s leading White House candidate, rejected the agreement.

Schumer stripped the border security language from the bill last week.

Trump, who hopes to use the border issue to unseat Biden in the November election, has since turned his criticism on the foreign aid bill, saying on social media that aid to U.S. allies should instead take the form of loans.

Meanwhile, Biden has been urging Congress to hurry new aid to Ukraine and U.S. partners in the Indo-Pacific, including Taiwan, for months. After Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, he also requested funds for the U.S. ally, along with humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza.

Ukrainian officials have warned of weapons shortages at a time when Russia is pressing ahead with renewed attacks.

But aid to Ukraine faces stronger headwinds in the House, where Trump’s interests hold greater sway with Republicans who control the chamber by a thin majority.

Reuters