$95.3 Billion Aid Package for Ukraine, Israel Passed in Senate; Fate in House Still Uncertain

House Speaker Mike Johnson insisted on Monday that Congress should address the border crisis as a priority.

The Senate passed a $95.3 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan on Tuesday.

The vote came after a small group of Republicans opposed to the $60 billion for Ukraine held the Senate floor through the night, using the final hours of debate to argue that the United States should focus on its own problems before sending more money overseas. But 22 Republicans joined nearly all Democrats to pass the package 70–29.

The bill includes $60 billion for Ukraine, $14.1 billion for Israel in its war against Hamas, $9.2 billion in humanitarian assistance for Gaza, and $8 billion for Taiwan and partners in the Indo-Pacific to counter China’s communist regime.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) applauded the bill’s passage and said, “American leadership will not waiver, will not falter, will not fail.”

However, the bill’s fate is still uncertain as House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) insisted that Congress prioritize the border crisis.

“House Republicans were crystal clear from the very beginning of discussions that any so-called national security supplemental legislation must recognize that national security begins at our own border,” he said in a statement on Monday before the Senate passed the bill.

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“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. America deserves better than the Senate’s status quo.”

The Hurdles

An initial package with the aid and some border measures failed to advance in the Senate without enough support from the Republican side.

With 50 senators voting against its advancement and 49 voting in the affirmative, it didn’t get the 60 votes needed to begin the debate. Four Republicans—Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), and James Lankford (R-Okla.)—voted for the bill.

The Republicans argued that the border measures would not change the situation at the southern border, insisted that addressing the border crisis was more important than giving more money to Ukraine, and complained that President Joe Biden didn’t secure the border even though he had the authority to do it.

The Republicans also cast doubt on funding Ukraine further.

Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) (C) talks to reporters between votes at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Feb. 12, 2024. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) (C) talks to reporters between votes at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Feb. 12, 2024. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sen. J.D. Vance, an Ohio Republican, argued that the United States should step back from the conflict and help broker an end to it with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He questioned the wisdom of continuing to fuel Ukraine’s defense when Mr. Putin appears committed to fighting for years.

“I think it deals with the reality that we’re living in, which is they’re a more powerful country, and it’s their region of the world,” he said.

Besides the border crisis and doubt about further Ukraine aid, the bill passed on Tuesday morning also faces challenges from the progressive lawmakers who object to the aid to Israel.

Two Democrats, Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.), as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), voted against the Senate bill.

“I cannot in good conscience support sending billions of additional taxpayer dollars for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s military campaign in Gaza,” Mr. Welch said.

“It’s a campaign that has killed and wounded a shocking number of civilians. It’s created a massive humanitarian crisis,” he added.

Uncertain Fate in House

In the House, many Republicans have opposed the aid and are unlikely to vote for it, but some key GOP lawmakers have signaled they will push to get it passed.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner (R-Ohio) traveled to Ukraine last week with a bipartisan delegation and met with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. After the trip, Mr. Turner posted on X, formerly Twitter, saying, “I reiterated America’s commitment to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia.”

But Mr. Johnson is in a challenging position. Most of his conference opposes the aid as he tries to lead the narrowest of majorities to block the bill.

Meanwhile, most House Democrats could support the bill, though some progressive Democrats may vote against it with the same concern raised by their colleagues in the Senate.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) traveled to Kyiv last week with Mr. Turner and other House members. She said the trip underscored to her how Ukraine is still in a fight for its very existence.

During a meeting with Mr. Zelenskyy, she said the U.S. lawmakers tried to offer assurances that the American people still stand with his country.

“He was clear that our continued support is critical to their ability to win the war,” Ms. Spanberger said. “It’s critical to their own freedom. And importantly, it’s critical to U.S. national security interests.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This is a developing story.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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