Senate Pushes Ukraine Aid Bill Toward Passage as G.O.P. Splinters

A bipartisan coalition of senators on Monday night pushed a $95 billion foreign aid package for Ukraine and Israel to the brink of passage, as Republicans fractured bitterly over the bill, with opponents threatening to fight it until the very end.

On a vote of 66 to 33, the measure cleared its last hurdle before a final vote, with 17 Republicans joining almost all Democrats to help advance it over the full-throated objections of the bulk of G.O.P. senators, Republican leaders in the House and the party’s likely presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump. That put the bill on track to pass the Senate no later than Wednesday.

But the measure’s fate was uncertain as Republican foes of the legislation promised to delay Senate passage as long as possible, and as Speaker Mike Johnson suggested he had no intention of bringing it up in the House, where the majority of Republicans have opposed continuing to send aid to Ukraine.

“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,” Mr. Johnson said in a statement, adding: “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.”

Mr. Trump and his right-wing allies have been pressuring Senate Republicans relentlessly to abandon the legislation, which would provide $60.1 billion to help Ukraine fight off a Russian invasion, $14.1 billion for Israel’s war against Hamas and almost $10 billion toward humanitarian aid for civilians in conflict zones, including Palestinians in Gaza. The bulk of Republicans in Congress have repudiated the measure, reflecting a turn away from the party’s traditional hawkish stance and belief in projecting American power and democratic principles around the world.

Mr. Trump in particular has been railing against the legislation from the campaign trail. In recent days, he has cheered G.O.P. senators for killing an earlier version of the bill that included a bipartisan deal on border security, argued on social media that it was “stupid” for the United States to offer foreign aid instead of loans, and encouraged Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to NATO members that did not spend enough money on their own defense.

But the pressure did little to erode a coalition of Republicans that has kept the aid bill moving forward.

“If it only stays this bad for the next couple of years, Putin is losing,” Senator Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina, said of Ukraine’s war effort. He argued that helping Kyiv maintain battlefield pressure against President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia could weaken his rule — “and that’s damn sure worth $60 billion, or $600 billion, to get rid of him.”

Mr. Tillis also dismissed the idea that skepticism of the bill by Republican voters was a reason to oppose it.

“When people use the base as a reason for saying they have to oppose it, I say, I go home, show my base some respect, dispel the rumors, talk about the facts,” he said. “And then I don’t have a base problem.”

Many of the Republicans opposing the bill contend that it prioritizes foreign conflicts over the threat that a major influx of migrants poses to the United States. That is despite their vote last week to kill a version of the legislation that paired the aid with stiffer border enforcement measures by restricting asylum laws, increasing detention capacity and accelerating deportations.

“A literal invasion is coming across our border,” Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, said on the floor on Monday. “And all they had time to do in the Senate was get the money, get the cash pallets, load the planes, get the champagne ready, and fly to Kyiv.”

Other Republican opponents have maintained that it would be folly to send Ukraine the tens of billions of dollars included in the bill, questioning whether Kyiv could ever get the upper hand against Russia.

Mr. Putin is “an evil war criminal, but he will not lose,” said Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, adding that “the continuation of this war is destroying Ukraine.”

And in a memo to colleagues, Senator J.D. Vance, Republican of Ohio, suggested that the entire bill was designed to compromise Mr. Trump’s ability to cut off aid to Kyiv in the future should he win the election.

“The supplemental represents an attempt by the foreign policy blob/deep state to stop President Trump from pursuing his desired policy,” Mr. Vance wrote, adding that Democrats were trying to “provide grounds to impeach him and undermine his administration.”

Democrats warned Republicans that a vote against the foreign aid bill would only help Russia pummel Ukraine on the battlefield, and would come back to haunt them.

“The entire world is going to remember what the Senate does in the next few days,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said on the floor. “If some people think Putin is just going to stop at Ukraine, if they think it’s somehow better to reason with him, to appease him, to hear him out, then these modern-day Neville Chamberlains ignore the warnings of history: The appetites of autocrats are never-ending.”

Republicans have insisted for months that they would not vote for military assistance for Ukraine unless Congress — or President Biden — also took steps to crack down on a surge of migration across the southwestern border. But when the death of the border bill refocused the debate around Ukraine, a subset of Republicans pivoted and fell in line behind the aid to Kyiv.

“I know it’s become quite fashionable in some circles to disregard the global interests we have as a global power, to bemoan the responsibilities of global leadership,” Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, said on the floor on Sunday, repudiating the anti-Ukraine faction of his party. “This is idle work for idle minds, and it has no place in the United States Senate.”

Republican opponents of the bill were also still pushing for the opportunity to offer proposals to change it, but as of Monday afternoon, Democrats and Republicans had been unable to strike a deal to do so.

“We haven’t even been able to make a single amendment pending,” Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, complained in a lengthy tirade on the floor on Monday, arguing that the process was “not fair.”

Source link

Leave a Comment